Broadening the impact of Christian Health Associations

For more than 30 years IMA World Health has nurtured and fostered partnerships with local, national and international partners to advance its mission of achieving health, healing and well-being for all. As much of Africa’s health care is provided through faith-based organizations, IMA works with Christian Health Associations and their regional coordinating body, the Africa Christian Health Associations Platform. CHAs have historically operated as umbrella organizations of church-based member institutions, such as health facilities and nurse training institutions. Subsidizing financial and human resources in resource poor settings, these networks often serve vulnerable populations in remote and rural areas where the public sector’s coverage is limited.

To empower partnerships and to achieve sustainable development, IMA focuses on strengthening the technical and organizational capacity of CHAs in East, West and Southern Africa. These efforts have resulted in improved health outcomes in communities served, increased CHA engagement with national and international stakeholders and recognition of the CHA contribution to the health sector.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 30 percent and 70 percent of the health infrastructure in Africa is currently carried out by FBOs.

Partnering to create an AIDSFree Generation

As part of a USAID-funded global Strengthening High Impact Interventions for an AIDS-Free Generation Project, IMA partners with the Christian Health Association of Kenya to implement a novel approach to engage religious leaders to expand the demand in uptake of pediatric HIV services in Nairobi. The approach builds the capacity of religious leaders to influence community and individual behaviors towards pediatric HIV and AIDS, and to increase use of care and treatment services. Together, IMA and CHAK have developed guides for religious leaders on pediatric HIV and have trained religious leaders on pediatric HIV as a technical area. As a result, 84 percent of the 1,950 completed referrals for HIV support services in 2017 were from religious leaders—proof that empowered faith leaders can be more effective at generating referrals than community health workers in some communities.

In Dedza, Malawi, IMA has mobilized a group of faith leaders through AIDSFree to educate their community members on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to encourage healthy behaviors and use of PMTCT services. One of the key goals is to build the capacity of our partner MANERELA+, the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders living with HIV/AIDS, to engage with faith communities to influence these health-seeking behaviors. In 2018, IMA worked with religious leaders to develop contextually appropriate “key messages” on PMTCT and trained them on how to deliver them. The faith leaders then promoted the key messages during awareness campaigns, couples counseling, youth forums, couple symposiums, mothers group meetings, male champion group meetings, and worship services at their church or mosque—reaching 11,333 people in total.

Partnering to build strong health systems

IMA partners with CHAK and Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies to increase access and utilization of quality health services through strengthened service delivery and institutional capacity of county health systems under the USAID-funded Afya Jijini Project in Nairobi, Kenya. The project is implementing interventions supporting HIV services, maternal, newborn and child health, family planning, water, sanitation and hygiene and MNCH-related nutrition services in 113 facilities in informal settlements in Nairobi City County’s sub-counties.

Partnering to strengthen organizational effectiveness

IMA works to strengthen the organizational effectiveness of CHAs and ACHAP. Through seconded staff to the ACHAP Secretariat, IMA has supported several capacity building, advocacy and health systems strengthening initiatives. IMA helped to establish Technical Working Groups to function as resources for ACHAP members. The most effective has been the Human Resources for Health TWG, which has brought together 13 CHAs from 10 countries. Because of this working group, several CHAs have implemented key interventions to strengthen the health workforce in their countries for improved health outcomes. In addition, IMA has supported the participation of CHAs at global health forums such as the World Health Assembly, and the ACHAP conference. The biennial gathering of Africa’s CHAs is a forum for ACHAP members to engage at a global level and address issues as a single, faith-based voice.

Partnering to manage disease outbreaks

IMA supported the Christian Health Association of Liberia to respond to the Ebola crisis with funding from the American Baptist Churches USA, Lutheran World Relief, Week of Compassion and Church of the Brethren. Key interventions included procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment and community engagement of religious leaders, and community health workers. CHAL’s efforts contributed to the control of the epidemic. In the post-Ebola era, IMA continues to support CHAL’s HSS efforts.

Strengthening FBO Advocacy

IMA is involved in a number of global advocacy initiatives around faith and development to mobilize the support of decision-makers, policymakers and donors to bring global health solutions to scale.

IMA is the founder of the We Will Speak Out U.S. coalition, which works to end the silence surrounding sexual and gender-based violence, and connects diverse faith groups across the U.S with other leaders for action and advocacy around SGBV. The coalition works at local, national and global levels to raise awareness about SGBV to ensure care for survivors, encourage law enforcement to adopt better enforcement and to change cultures of tolerance and inaction. In 2014, IMA partnered with Sojourners on behalf of We Will Speak Out U.S. to release “Broken Silence: A Call for Churches to Speak Out” and its 2018 follow-up report, Broken Silence 2.0: an update on pastors’ attitudes and actions around domestic and sexual violence in the #metoo era, as advocacy tools for SGBV. IMA also participates in dialogue at the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, co-sponsoring parallel events in 2014 and 2015 on global faith responses to SGBV.

IMA is a key partner of ACHAP, an advocacy and networking platform for improving knowledge sharing and joint learning among Christian Health Associations and Church Health Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa. CHA networks have a long history of working within developing countries to provide health care services to populations in need, and they form the integral link between the Ministry of Health and the faith-based health care facilities.

In addition, IMA maintains active membership for the Partnership for Faith and Development, Christian Connections for International Health and the Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance to contribute to the dialogue, networking, advocacy, and fellowship with FBOs and individuals working in international health.