Community Action for Health

Gemeinsam für Gesundheit / Ensemble pour la santé

The Swiss Health Cooperation Symposium

Dear Colleagues,

Following on from the success of the event in recent years, I have the pleasure of inviting you to attend the fourth Swiss Health Cooperation Symposium, which will be staged again in Basel. This year’s symposium is about Community Action for Health.

We started preparing the symposium with the following questions in mind: How can the community contribute to developing “health for all”? What can primary healthcare initiatives that are rooted in a community achieve under their own steam and where are their limits? How can “health from below” models be meaningfully combined with national planning and international action? What role can Swiss organizations play in community-based health promotion – and where are the limits? Are active participation and co-ownership by the community at all possible in programmes that are initiated or promoted externally? How can responsibilities and capacities within a community be widened and activated and how can traditional attitudes and role perceptions be changed? What can be done to ensure that all groups and interests – including disadvantaged ones – within a specific community have an equal say?

The last two Swiss Health Cooperation Symposia have touched on important aspects of community-based health promotion. At this year’s event on 9 November in Basel they will constitute the focus for the exchange of ideas and experience: Where does Community Action for Health now stand two decades after the Ottawa Charter, which defined support for community-based health initiatives as the core strategy of health promotion?

We are confident that this year’s Swiss Health Cooperation Symposium will again create much food for thought as a platform for political and professional exchanges. We are also looking forward to a number of remarkable contributions that will not only appeal to the mind but will also enlighten and move us, for instance the film from Ecuador’s Amazon Basin, the reading from the South African book, “The Community is my University”, or the discussion between our guest from Cameroon and a Swiss physician.

And this year, too, we have endeavoured to ensure that the contributions have practical relevance and to bridge the divide between the realities of the situation in the South and East on the one hand and Switzerland on the other, and between the health sector and other sectors of society and social development.

Community Action for Health: The World Health Organization WHO defines Community Action for Health as “collective efforts by communities which are directed towards increasing community control over the determinants of health, and thereby improving health”. The underlying concept of health promotion is one that seeks to enable people to gain control over their health. It is based on the assumption that a multitude of individual, social, economic factors influence people's health, over which people have only limited control but are able to gain more control. It therefore believes that people and communities are capable of analysing the factors influencing their health and of planning, implementing and monitoring actions directed at improving them. Empowerment of people and communities is seen both, as a means and as a goal of this process. The document that most closely reflects this understanding of health promotion is the Ottawa Charter of the WHO. It defines health promotion as “the process of enabling people to increase control over determinants of their health, and to improve health” and states that "at the heart of this process is the empowerment of communities - their ownership and control of their own endeavours and destinies.” This points to the implications such a process has on civil society building. (Tobias Schüth, in: Bulletin von Medicus Mundi Schweiz)

Symposium Postcard. Photo (c) Swiss Red Cross

The symposium is targeting a broad spectrum of participants active at the national or international level: professionals and organizations in the health and economic cooperation fields, representatives from administration and politics, industry associations, business and the media, and all those with an interest in international health and economic cooperation.

We hope that careful perusal of the programme will persuade you to register for the symposium. To do so, please use the online form on our website. It would give us great pleasure to be your hosts at the symposium. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Basel!

Yours sincerely,

Nicolaus Lorenz, President
Medicus Mundi Switzerland
Network Health for All