Health in Africa and Faith Communities: What Do We Need to Know?

Author: Katherine Marshall

June 18, 2013

Faith-inspired organizations (FIOs) and communities are important providers of healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa (as in other world regions). Quality can be high and the focus is often on serving the very poor and marginalized, but FIO work is rarely treated as a central part of national and global health strategies and systems. Uncertainties, misunderstandings, and stereotypes about faith roles in health matter because they hamper dialogue and partnerships, among faith institutions and governments, and also with non-profit and for-profit entities and multilateral institutions working on health. With some 30 years of research and discussion, considerable information about the health work of faith-inspired organizations and communities and its implications for quality care has been amassed. However, this information is not systematic or comprehensive and much is difficult to find. Further, systems are diverse (tens of thousands of FIOs are engaged in healthcare) and often overlap with public and private services. This explains wide discrepancies in estimates of FIO roles and appreciations of their reach, quality, and impact. Documented evidence about effectiveness is especially weak. This brief presents the key results of a 2012 review, undertaken as a partnership between the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the World Faiths Development Dialogue.

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