Sarla Chand
Jacqui Patterson
Publication Date
September 1, 2007

IMA World Health and ActionAid International USA

This brief highlights the contribution of faith-based organisations (FBOs) to health care by focusing on four FBO programme models that, despite multiple challenges, have been effective in improving maternal and newborn health (MNH) outcomes. The programme models are based on FBO health networks, community health behaviour change programmes, congregation-based health programmes, and comprehensive health care programmes. Using project examples mainly from Africa, the document shows how these models can strengthen and expand health services and contribute to the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The brief concludes with recommended actions for all stakeholders - FBOs, policy makers, and donors.

According to this document, FBOs play a crucial role in increasing access to maternal and newborn health (MNH) services worldwide. In developing countries, faith-based health care facilities provide a significant percentage of health care services. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, FBOs provide up to 70% of the region's health care services. With networks that reach more remote communities, many FBOs are well positioned to promote demand for and access to MNH services. Partnerships among FBOs and other stakeholders are considered critical in promoting and delivering MNH services. Such partnerships increase the quality and quantity of services, as well as access to them, and ensure their sustainability – influencing behaviours at the community, family, and individual levels.

The brief offers a selection of examples which highlight the contribution of FBOs to MNH. FBO health networks and community- and congregation-based health programmes can provide a wide spectrum of clinical and outreach services. A malaria prevention programme of the Synod of Livingstonia, Malawi illustrates how congregations can be mobilised to promote behaviour change to improve health and save lives. As the document states, every village has at least one faith community which can provide a strong foundation for positive change.

The brief also looks at the contribution of some FBO health networks and facility-based services in Uganda and Tanzania. A pilot project in the Kasese District of Uganda illustrates how Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim health care providers and communities can work together from household-to-hospital levels to improve health outcomes. In addition, the brief describes community health programmes focusing on behaviour change - in particular, the World Relief Care Group Model in Mozambique. The programme involves the training of a network of community health volunteers who function as community change agents.

The brief also highlights how FBOs are contributing to the development of successful, replicable, and sustainable models of comprehensive health care. One such example is the Comprehensive Rural Health project (CRHP) in Jamkhed, India, which has empowered communities to take health into their own hands. Another example is the SANRU ("sante rurale" means rural health) Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a decentralised comprehensive health system that has provided leadership in the development of health zones for more than 30 years.

For more information contact:
The ACCESS Program


ACCESS Program website on May 19 2008.