Liberation Medicine

Okay, I haven’t posted in a MINUTE! But between a really poor internet connection in the house that I’m residing in Cape Town and (finally) becoming more busy in my daily activities, I just haven’t found the time to sit down and write a post.

A couple of weeks ago I started doing the background reading that my research mentor gave me about qualitative research. In searching some of the terms and organizations mentioned in one of these articles I came across a website for Doctors for Global Health, which then had articles about liberation medicine. Now as an alum of a small liberal arts school, I’ve heard about liberation theology, and have come across an innumerable amount of references to it in the readings that I had to do in my AfAm major. But I’d never really heard about the concept of liberation medicine, which draws heavily upon the ideas of liberation theology. One of the articles I read, summed it up the best, at least in my opinion.

But overall, I think stumbling across this article couldn’t have come at a better time. Our mentor is a member of PHM-SA (People’s Health Movement South Africa), and they are having their national assembly before the third global assembly. I knew this before I came here, but given that I really knew NOTHING about the People’s Health Movement, I didn’t really understand this significance of these momentous events. The People’s Health Movement:

…has its roots deep in the grassroots people’s movement and owes its genesis to many health networks and activists who have been concerned by the growing inequities in health over the last 25 years. The PHM calls for a revitalisation of the principles of the Alma-Ata Declaration which promised Health for All by the year 2000 and complete revision of international and domestic policy that has shown to impact negatively on health status and systems.

Why didn’t I know about this sooner?? The movement wrote the People’s Charter for Health at their first global meeting that delineates their vision for health and the principles they stand for. There are local PHMs all over the world, we even have a PHM USA, which I hope to become involved in when I return. But the point is, they’re having their 3rd People’s Health Assembly here in Cape Town, following the National Health Assembly, which addresses health issues specifically in South Africa. I’m pretty excited that I get to be a part of this, and to have the opportunity to see it from the inside out; approaching it from an organizer’s perspective as I will be volunteering for both assemblies. I also have received the opportunity to participate in IPHU (International People’s Health University), which is a 10 day workshop for current and aspiring health activists from all over the world to learn about and discuss various health rights issues and strategies for developing plans of action to take back to our communities. It’s also largely about thinking critically about health issues and shifting your frame of mind about how to approach these issues–asking the ever important question, “but why?”

If I’ve gotten anything from these conferences, it’s really been the reassurance that there are like minded people across the globe who believe that health is a human right and needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner, and they are spending their lives’ work towards achieving these aims. It’s really exciting and affirming, especially when people don’t hesitate to remind me that I;m not going to make any money in public health or being a general physician in high-needs communities (which is not the point!).