Dr Vicky Lavy

Minding the gap – Developing Health Course 2012

Dr Vicky Lavy worked for ten years in Malawi, setting up a palliative care programme for children. She now works for CMF as Head of International Ministries.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

We are half way through the Developing Health Course, after a fantastic first week.  We have learned about community health, mental health, tropical medicine, HIV, paediatrics, ophthalmology, palliative care… and much, much more.

This is the fourth time I’ve run the course and it’s great to meet a new crowd of participants each time. Some of them are CMF members working abroad who I’ve heard from on email and it’s good to meet them in the flesh. This year we’ve got several medical students and junior doctors on the course which is so encouraging – the next generation is preparing to serve overseas.

One such doctor is  Chris Lowry , an F2 from Sheffield, who can multi-task like no one else I know; he writes blogs, sends tweets and surfs the net during lectures and still manages to ask (fairly) intelligent questions along the way.

Here are some excerpts from his fast-moving blog: (read the full version at allaboutchris.org/blog/2012/cmf-developing-health-course/.)

Monday 25 June 2012

Arriving at the beautiful Oak Hill College for the first day of this course, I was taken aback by the peaceful grounds. 5 miles inside the M25, it was a rather a surprise to drive into a green, leafy park, with a large period building and refreshingly cool, modern interior. Seriously, I think I want to live here.

Global Overview

After a vital cup of tea, we kicked off with the first talk, from Ted Lankester. He is an engaging, amusing speaker, with an obvious passion for helping those in the world who don’t have access to adequate healthcare. He runs InterHealth, which heads up the Community Health Global Networks.

There were lots of shocking statistics, talking of a billion people in extreme poverty and extremes in inequality – in Nairobi some areas have an under 5 mortality rate of 15 per 1000, others have a rate of 254 per 1000. 29,000 children dying each day, mostly from diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery: preventable disease. A general picture of a world that not improving, probably getting a little worse.

He pointed out that in the last 30 years, there’s been a realisation that the hub of the health system is families and communities, not doctors and hospitals. The future is primary care, recognizing common problems and working upstream to prevent them.

Filled with anecdotes and humour, I ended this talk wishing I could leave right now, get on a plane and go somewhere, anywhere to help…

Establishing an effective primary healthcare service

Helen Shawyer came next, doing rather well at giving me a destination for that dream, with a discussion about her 18 months with Medair http://www.medair.org/ helping establish a local health setup in South Sudan: the world’s newest country.

An inspiring story of her experiences working with an influx of refugees, government turmoil and life-saving individuals rising up from the community.

We had sessions on disaster relief, refugees and an ABC of community health, leading to…

What does it mean to be Faith-Based?

The final talk of the day, from Nick Henwood, was a very interactive session, looking at some of the conflicts that medical professionals have between their training and faith. He put us in small groups, and tried to make us fight each other.

There are many different world views, and ours will define how we practice. We will have differing values as we look at God, Self, Others and Creation, and this also changes our behaviour.

Nick drew simplified versions of a secular “Me” model, an animist “We” model and the Christian model of “Interdependence”. The point being that a Western self centred ideology can be unhealthy, whilst an Eastern model of laid back acceptance of life can be unproductive. Ideally, Christianity gives us that valuing of self through valuing others.

The way that we understand health involves “Minding the Gap” – ensuring we do not allow a chasm to form between our strict biomedical view of health and a more holistic understanding of spiritual health. We looked at the Micah Declaration on integral mission,
and a case study on how the local church can be a vital part of community development: Umoja.

His final points:

  1. Ensure your helping does not hurt.
  2. You don’t change on the plane – put integrated approaches into practice now.
  3. Explore some community development plans and try them out.

And with that, the day was over, and I escaped. More tomorrow!


Posted by Dr Vicky Lavy
CMF Head of International Ministries



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