CCIH 2015 Conference Coverage Print {sharethis label=}
2015 Conference Connects Christians to Advance Global Health and Address Extreme Poverty
 
The CCIH 29th Annual Conference, held June 26-28 in Arlington, VA, USA, attracted 186 attendees from 16 nations, the highest attendance since the conferences began 30 years ago. Attendees ranged from students and recent graduates to CEOs, with four times as many students and CEOs attending in 2015 than attended the conference in 2014. The perspectives were also broad among the participants thanks to the variety of training they have received and positions they serve in, ranging from project managers to clinicians, such as medical doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, as well as researchers and educators. Pastors and missionaries also brought another perspective to discussions on the intersection of faith and health.
 
While attendees differ in the roles they fill, they share a passion for global health and supporting the work of Christians serving those in need. “It was a tremendously rewarding engagement with great participants who demonstrate immense passion for global health,” said Samuel Mwenda, MD, General Secretary, Christian Health Association of Kenya (shown above). “Those of us from Africa were particularly inspired by the interest and ongoing work there by many organizations involved in global health.”
 
Fellowship and Meaningful Connections
 
 
 
Christian fellowship has always been one of the highlights of the CCIH Conference. “In past years I have been privileged to participate in a number of CCIH conferences,” said Dick Stellway, PhD, Facilitator for the Children, AIDS and Adversity Forum with Community Vision International, a ministry serving people with disabilities. “The opportunity to meet and learn from and fellowship with Christians who have dedicated their lives to serving others is always a high point for me.  This year’s conference once again ‘filled this bill’—right from the start.”
 
First-time attendee Amaka Uja of the Isaiah 58 Care Foundation, which cares for orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria, had received training from CCIH affiliate Global Health Action, which she found extremely helpful in her work. While she had contact over the years with Robin Davis of Global Health Action, she was thrilled to meet her in person at the conference. “Thank God for the opportunity of meeting the CCIH family,” said Amaka. “I cannot express my joy enough. It was my first conference and I have gained strength, courage, and confidence. My prayer every day is for God to keep us and use us to make a positive impact on others.” 
 
Sessions Explore Health, Poverty and Education
 
Family Planning Pre-Conference: Myths, Half-Truths, and Misinformation
 
In a pre-conference session on faith and family planning, Debbie Dortzbach, MPH, MN, Director of Health and Social Development for World Relief (shown at left) addressed issues facing youth, such as pressures to become sexually active and discussed how Christians can become “part of a movement to help youth be prepared to face these struggles so they can fulfill their potential.” She explained how World Relief is working with the Ugandan government on a program supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development to mentor 14,000 girls in Uganda between the ages of 10 and 12 and prepare them for these challenges.
 
Speaking at the same pre-conference session, Samuel Mwenda, MD, General Secretary of CHAK discussed the enormous potential of faith leaders to be a positive force in sharing messages on family planning and reproductive health, saying, “Religious leaders can be harshly condemned as barriers to progress, but they should be seen as opportunities.” He explained how faith leaders can be important advocates for health when they have the right information.
 
FBOs as Valued Partners
 
Admiral Tim Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator and Leader of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) (shown far right in above photo strip) explained how 30 percent of PMI’s partners are faith-based organizations. He remarked that FBOs are the ones who are there for disasters and remain for the long-term, adding, “Thank you for your service and the role you plan in linking the spiritual component with the high-quality care you provide.”
 
Ending Extreme Poverty with Enterprise and Education
 
In the opening plenary session, Laura van Vuuren, Global Health Consultant discussed the strides that have been made in the last three decades to reduce extreme poverty, stating the number of people across the globe who live on the equivalent of $1 US a day has been reduced from one-half of the population in 1981 to one-fifth in 2010.
 
Linda Hiebert, Senior Director, Education and Life Skills, World Vision discussed the advantages of integrating health and education. Early learning contributes to health and ensuring a safe and healthy school environment improves education. She described a World Vision program that includes sanitation and hygiene in Ethiopia to address the problem of girls missing an average of three to five days of school each month due to menstruation.
 
Health and Education: Reading in the Mother Tongue
 
Speaking in the opening plenary session, Paul Frank, Executive Director, SIL LEAD (shown at left) showed strong evidence of the connection between education and improved health. For example, one additional year of education for the female population can avert six deaths per thousand children; and educating girls for six years or more drastically and consistently improves their prenatal and postnatal care and childbirth survival rates.
 
A study in Cameroon revealed evidence that educational outcomes improve when children learn to read in their native language first before learning in English or another language. In response, SIL LEAD developed materials and programs with USAID support to help children learn to read in local languages, currently being used in Ghana, Liberia, Uganda, Ethiopia, DRC, the Philippines, and Nepal. According to Paul, teachers report their students demonstrate greater enthusiasm for reading and are excited to collect and distribute the materials in their native tongue. However, Paul said there is still much to be done as too many students in developing nations cannot read at all and begin school without ever handling a book or being read to at home.
 
Immunization and Faith
 
In a session on Immunization and the Faith Community, Cristina Bisson, Advocacy and Public Policy Consultant for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance explained Gavi’s efforts to partner with governments, donors, vaccine manufacturers, academia, and civil society, including the faith community, to reach children with vaccines. In 2013, 21.8 million children worldwide were not receiving the third dose of DTP-containing vaccine, with almost 85 percent of those children living in countries supported by Gavi.
 
According to Cristina, the faith community has an extensive and unique reach as advocates for childhood vaccination, and is especially helpful in allaying fears about vaccination, because faith groups are a credible source of information and influential with policymakers and families.
 
Richard Lane, MD, MPH, Director of the MPH Program at Liberty University (shown at left) explored the anti-vaccination movement. He debunked harmful myths, such as a now disproven link with autism and the belief that vaccines contain cells from aborted fetuses, keeping people from vaccinating children. According to Richard, this group against vaccination is diverse, spanning the political spectrum from liberal to conservative. They may be religious or atheist, and have varying levels of education. While there is much inaccurate material fueling concerns about vaccines, people of faith can help by sharing the truth and promoting the enormous benefits of vaccines.
 
The faith community plays a significant role in delivering vaccines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to Hélène Mambu-ma-Disu, MD, MPH, Senior Program Officer for the Sustainable Immunization Financing Program of the Sabin Vaccine Institute for DRC and SANRU board member, the government of DRC long ago understood the importance of faith-based organizations in healthcare, and in many cases has delegated the management of its health zones to church-managed health services. Currently, 40 percent of DRC’s 516 health zones are managed by faith-based organizations. FBOs contribute to improving vaccination coverage in the nation by providing cold chain equipment for vaccine storage, supporting community health workers for social mobilization, providing immunization free of charge, and educating congregations about vaccines during church services.
 
Evaluating the Faith Community Response to Ebola
 
Speaking in a plenary session, Anne Peterson, MD, MPH, Senior Vice President of Programs, AmeriCares (shown at left) described how she felt called to go to West Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. She went on behalf of World Vision, which supported her travel, with the objective of evaluating the faith community response and identifying what FBOs could do to stop the spread and help those affected by Ebola.
 
“I talked to people in slums in Liberia and Sierra Leone and found out they were not going to treatment centers because they were scared of catching Ebola when the real cause of their illness was actually something else,” she explained. She described the indirect effects of Ebola, such as stopping critical services such as vaccinations and other preventive care, the closure of businesses and problems accessing food, and young girls getting pregnant due to increased abuse or trading sex for food.
 
Anne observed five key areas of the faith community response to Ebola:
 
  • Stopping the spread of Ebola by helping people have safe and respectful burials, and treating patients.
  • Community empowerment and ownership: Keeping the community informed and sharing important messages.
  • Enhancing the role of faith leaders and providing them with training and empowerment. They can help reduce negative messages, share positive messages, and speak to communities in faith-friendly language.
  • Helping survivors and families and addressing the needs of those who have been devastated through caring for children who have become orphans, and providing trauma counseling.
  • Addressing the massive indirect impacts of Ebola, such as providing food to those who no longer have access to regular supplies. 
 
CCIH Connections in Crises: West Africa to Nepal
 
CCIH is a network of Christians providing health care around the globe and responding to disasters no matter where they occur. According to Anne, connections she made through CCIH with others living and working in West Africa were enormously helpful in putting her in touch with the faith community and gathering the information she needed.
 
Anne also traveled to Nepal in the wake of the massive earthquake that struck in April. She described the devastation she witnessed as “heartbreaking.” Before her trip, she connected with Dr. Purnima Gurung of the Dr. Iwamura Memorial Hospital and Research Center through CCIH. She visited Purnima and the hospital near Kathmandu and arranged for medical supplies from AmeriCares to be delivered to the hospital. Purnima and her staff and volunteers delivered those supplies to 15 clinics treating people wounded in the earthquake.
 
Patricia Kamara, Executive Director, Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL) (shown at left) described CHAL's response to the Ebola outbreak and how the organization used sound trucks and other techniques to educate and inform the community about Ebola while dispelling harmful myths. CHAL enlisted religious leaders to share positive messages and used songs and posters to share these messages. Handwashing stations set up throughout communities and other interventions, such as distribution of personal protective equipment and essential medicines helped health facilities and communities address the spread of Ebola.
 
Henry Mosley Recognized for Decades of Service
 
The 2015 CCIH Christian International Health Champion Award was presented to Henry Mosley, MD, MPH in a plenary session at the conference. The CCIH Christian International Health Champion Award honors an individual who has dedicated his/her life to global health from a Christian perspective and has made significant contributions to the field.
 
In addition to his dedication and impressive achievements, Henry is known for his warmth and modesty, which he displayed in his acceptance remarks. Henry said he was able to achieve what it took to earn this award because he rode on the shoulders of lots of people in the developing world who have helped him when he didn’t know the language or culture. Henry also expressed that it is difficult as a Christian to accept an award and receive praise, and quoted Hebrews 12:1-3 to highlight his belief that Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice, which we must remember with humility.
 
In above photo, Ray Martin, MPH, CCIH Executive Director Emeritus (right) presents the award to Henry Mosley, MD, MPH.
 
Henry is a long-time CCIH member and supporter and has served on the CCIH Board of Directors. He currently serves as Professor Emeritus in the Population, Family and Reproductive Health and International Health Departments at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. He has worked for 50 years in international public health, spending time in education and research in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya and Indonesia. In 1971, He was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Population Dynamics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, where he established the Johns Hopkins Institute for International programs and later co-founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health.
 
Writer Barbara Pash sat down with Henry for an in-person interview about his career and remarkable life in early July. The article appeared in the Towson Times section of the Baltimore Sun.
 
Christian Advocacy to End Extreme Poverty
 
The final plenary session featured three presentations exploring the Biblical call to advocacy, especially as it relates to ending extreme poverty and protecting the health of women and children. Jason Fileta, Director of the Micah Challenge USA challenged us to speak out against injustice, pray passionately, and live justly to end extreme poverty.
 
Katie Kraft, Advocacy Coordinator for the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative of the General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church made a powerful connection between the Biblical basis for advocacy and promoting family planning to help families safely space pregnancies to optimize the health of the mother and child, stating, “There is a poverty in not having a healthy mother.” Family planning helps keep mother and child healthy, improve education and break the cycle of poverty.
 
In his inspiring and humorous talk, Yoram Siame, MPH, MSc, Advocacy and Public Relations Manager, Churches Health Association of Zambia (shown above) encouraged attendees to pray for enough “naivety to think that our actions can make a difference” and ensure that every development initiative has an advocacy budget. In explaining the power of advocacy, Yoram made the point, “The powerful need the permission of the powerless to continue being so.”
 
All photos by Javier Pierrend
 
Thank You to Our Sponsors
 
The conference was sponsored by:
 
 
 
 
Photo Albums on Facebook
 
Visit CCIH on Facebook to see albums from each day of the conference!
 
 
PowerPoint Presentations
 
Access presenter PowerPoint presentations here.
 
Attendee Testimonials
 
Read what conference attendees, including students, health professionals, exhibitors providing global health products and more, have to say about the conference here
Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 August 2015 13:11 )