News and Activities of the International People’s Health Council
Third International Conference of IPHC, Held in Cape Town
From January 31 to February 2 the IPHC held its third international meeting at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town South Africa to discuss the theme: “The New World Order: A Challenge to Health for All by the Year 2000.”
Co-organizers of the conference were the National Progressive Primary Health Care Network (NPPHCN) and the South African Health and Social Services Organization (SAHSS0). The conference was attended by over 400 persons from 20 countries.
Guest speakers included: Fran Baum, Martin Coyle, Zafrullah Chowdhury, Michel Chossudovski, Irwin Friedman, B. Ekbal, Teresa Guevarra, Maria Zuniga, David Sanders, and David Werner.
South African health workers related both the advances and new obstacles to the goal of adequate health services for all since the end of the apartheid regime. They explained that among the biggest barriers to a healthy society is the enormous inequality that still exists, with millions of people still jobless and homeless. Impatient for change, outbreaks of crime and violence have become one of the biggest threats to health.
South Africa is at a crossroad. There is still a strong movement for social justice and equal opportunity that was the foundation of the struggle for emancipation from rule by white masters. But the government is fraught with shortage of funds and scarcity of skilled administrators and planners. It is under strong pressure by the World Bank and global market to enact structural adjustment policies that would put the nation on a course of “economic recovery” (for the rich). This would be likely to further impoverish the poor, as it has done in many other countries.
Health workers from South Africa—while they are seeking their own solutions— especially welcomed the perspective of participants from other countries, who related their own, usually disastrous experiences with structural adjustment policies, and who warned the South Africans of the pro-big-business, poverty intensifying strategies of the international financial institutions and global power structure.
One of the high points of the conference was the presentation of local solutions and stories of how people at the local level have succeeded, at least in part, in safe guarding their health.
The net outcome of the meeting was a new sense of solidarity, and the recognition of the need for a united front of concerned people and groups from around the world to communicate the truth about the man-made causes of poor health in today’s world: to move toward a “globalization from below” that is both people and environment friendly.
Proceedings of the 1997 IPHC Conference will soon be available through HealthWrights.
‘Health Education: Methods that Empower’
Following the IPHC Conference, several of the international participants who for many years have been organizers and facilitators of community-based health education jointly facilitated a course in the Summer School program (headed by David Sanders) of the new Department of Community Health at the University of the Western Cape.
The course facilitators were Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury (from Bangladesh), Yoshi Ikezumi (Japan), Teresa Guevarra and Jocelyn Andawi-Apalla (Philippines), Maria Zuniga (Nicaragua), Martín Reyes (Mexico), and David Werner (USA). Participants were health workers, social workers, teachers, and health planners, mostly from South Africa.
The goal of the course was to exchange ideas and try to develop new teaching/learning methodologies for the new situation at the turn of the century. The challenge was to try to develop ways to help ordinary people—workers, farmers, students, home-makers—to analyze and understand both the micro (local) and macro (global) causes of poor health.
Readapting the participatory “education of the oppressed” methods of Paulo Freire and others, the group experimented with role plays, story-telling, community-diagnosis, “But why?” games, and various graphic teaching materials. We all learned a lot from each other, and returned to our various
homes and work places with new tools and renewed commitment.