On this World Health Day, we are delighted to announce the launch of the Anglican Health and Community Network (AHCN), following the formal approval of its formation by the Anglican Consultative Council’s Standing Committee in February.
Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Revd Dr Will Adam, welcomed the network’s launch, saying, “For more than a year the attention of the whole world has been primarily focused on health and healthcare, as countries across the globe respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. And during that time, the value and appreciation we place on healthcare workers has also increased, as we rightly recognise the incredible hard work they have done – particularly those on the front line in critical care – to support patients with Coronavirus and other illnesses.
“The new Anglican Health and Community Network – launching on World Health Day – will support Anglicans working across the world in health care, whether in clinical settings or in the community. It has long been recognised that, in many parts of the world, Churches are best placed to reach ‘the last mile’ in hard to reach communities – whether it is in disseminating disease prevention education; or organising community clinics.
“And so on this World Health Day, I am delighted that the new Anglican Health and Community Network is launching, with the backing of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee, to connect, prepare and equip Anglicans around the world to provide health care, accompany the sick, and advocate for equitable health-care, combining trust in science and hope in God.”
The timing of the network’s launch is especially apt, coming in Easter-tide, as we celebrate the risen Christ. “Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed. Jesus came to bring life, life in all its fullness, and was the great healer”, said Dr Sally Smith, who has supported the establishment of the network. “As Anglicans working in health care, we are privileged to walk in his footsteps and bring health and healing to people through our life and work. The importance of this health and healing ministry has come into sharp focus through the Covid-19 pandemic this last year”.
The new network has three co-convenors from across the Communion, all experts in health. They were nominated following consultation with their primates and have received the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.
Dr Janice Tsang, is a specialist in Medical Oncology and the Honorary Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong. Her background is in research, medical education, and clinical pastoral care. She is an active member of Hong Kong Anglican community and of the Compass Rose Society. Her message for the launch of the network highlights its happy timing at Easter.
Rt Revd Luke Pato is the Bishop of Namibia in the Church of Southern Africa. He is a champion of national and regional initiatives for malaria elimination and a lead member and advocate in the Isdell Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative with other Anglican dioceses in the region. Bishop Luke Pato’s video message for the launch of the network highlights what can be achieved when Anglicans work together on health initiatives.
Rt Revd Michael Beasley is the Bishop of Hertford in the Church of England. Formerly an epidemiologist at Imperial College, London, he has extensive international experience in issues of health, nutrition and child development. In 2019 he supported churches in DRC in their Ebola response.
On today’s launch, Bishop Michael said, “Anglicans around the world contribute extensively to the health and wellbeing of the places where they live, work and worshipIn many places, this is through running hospitals and health centres. Just as much is the role that Anglicans play as trusted members of their communities, able to engage with local health issues so that solutions and ways forward can be found.
“As someone with a background in public health I’ve been enormously encouraged to see the work that local church members and churches are doing in different places to contribute to this work – from supporting mental health in my own area of Hertfordshire, to responding to the outbreak of Ebola that took place in DRC, to supporting efforts to eliminate malaria in Angola and elsewhere in Southern Africa.
“The aim of the Anglican Health and Community Network will be to enable experiences of understanding and everyday practice such as these to be shared, learned from, built on and grown. Our hope is that the work of Anglicans in health around the world can be strengthened and supported.”
Why is the network needed?
Across the Anglican Communion, there is a vast amount of health-related technical expertise and experience. Provinces, dioceses, organisations and networks not only manage health facilities but also undertake health care in local communities through health projects, networks such as the Mothers’ Union, local congregations, and volunteers. Churches also serve to facilitate greater access to health care provided by the state.
This wealth of knowledge and experience is an asset of the Communion that needs to be shared, to enable mutual flourishing. And to be effective in a health crisis, technical expertise and experience needs to be well connected, easily accessible and activated quickly.
The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that it is possible to draw on health expertise in a specific health crisis; the Anglican Health and Community Network launched today will enable that health expertise and experience to be more readily accessible, available, communicated and coordinated in other situations too.
The new AHCN network includes ‘and community’ in the title, in recognition of the fact that Anglican mission in health takes place in communities as well as in hospitals and clinics and that a complex social, community and health system underpins health in many different ways. This past year has made this more apparent than ever, as communities have provided vital support to neighbours during the Covid-19 restrictions.
How did it come about?
The Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in Hong Kong adopted resolution A17:07 ‘Towards an Anglican Health Network’. The Resolution asked for a scoping report and consultation on the development of an Anglican Health Network to be undertaken and reported back to ACC Standing Committee.
This work was conducted in 2020. As well as the scoping research, Anglicans involved in health, development and relief across the Anglican Communion’s organisations and networks including the Anglican Alliance held a virtual Global Consultation of interested early adopters for a network in September 2020. This work led to a shared understanding of the work and structure of the new network, which was approved by the ACC Standing Committee in February 2021.
What will it do? the AHCN will have six primary functions, to:
- Connect and coordinate: Provide a coordinated Anglican voice on key health issues globally, regionally, nationally and across districts, informed by health professionals and church leaders working together, using the best scientific evidence.
- Advocate: Play an important role in keeping health on the Anglican agenda world-wide. This will include providing technical expertise from a broad body of health professionals and church leaders that will inform Anglican advocacy, call for equity in health and strengthen inputs to our representation at WHO, the wider UN, the African Union and other regional bodies and with national governments.
- Build trust and hope among local communities in health messages and help to build confidence among secular health partners in the Communion as a trusted partner, which works in line with the best scientific evidence and collaborates well in support of national Ministry of Health responses.
- Equip: Bring together practitioners, church leaders and academics from across the Communion to inform practice and advocacy. The inclusion of both academics and active practitioners in the network brings a greater legitimacy to the work and voice of the Communion and provides a mechanism for cross Communion learning and skills building on health.
- Support, Accompany and Encourage: Provide technical support to isolated Anglican health partners as well as connection with colleagues across the Communion to develop and share practical information and examples of what works.
- Prepare: Document lessons learned and examples of good practice across the Anglican Communion, organizations, and networks to inform planning for the next health emergency.
What approaches will the AHCN take to do this?
- Take a ‘systems strengthening approach’ to Anglican emergency and health responses.
- Support senior clergy in their central role during an emergency.
- Recognise the needs of isolated Anglican hospitals in the ‘systems strengthening approach’, whilst focusing on the community and church.
- Establish a simple mechanism for communication, coordination, information sharing, mentoring and exchange across the Communion.
- Encourage the development of ‘communities of practice’ and a simple mechanism to share expertise on specific health issues.
- Establish a simple Anglican directory of who’s who (updated every one to two years) in each province and diocese.
What next and how can I join in?
You are invited to share this information widely across your provinces with churches, health related projects and individuals. The Anglican Communion website will shortly have a section dedicated to the AHCN, which will have further information on the next steps to convene three anticipated AHCN Communities of Practice on:
- Covid-19 health response and advocacy for equitable vaccine roll-out (collaborating with the Covid-19 global task force convened by the Anglican Alliance)
- Mental health.
If you would like to join one of the AHCN communities of practice, offer to establish and lead an AHCN community of practice on a health issue close to your heart, or sign up to the AHCN newsletter, that will be circulated quarterly, then please e-mail the ACHN co-coordinator. Dr. Sally Smith at AHCN@anglicancommunion.org
What might all this look like in practice? What has the emerging AHCN been doing already?
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted what Anglicans can do when connected and equipped and indicates the enormous potential of the AHCN. Throughout the pandemic, the emerging AHCN has brought technical health expertise to the Communion’s global Covid-19 response, playing a key role in the global Covid-19 task force convened by the Anglican Alliance.
In late 2020, the nascent AHCN organised two briefings by senior technical staff of the World Health Organization on the Covid-19 pandemic and progress towards the development of a vaccine. The first, for Anglican Primates on the Covid-19 pandemic, was held in November, following which they made a call for ‘equitable’ roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine; the second, in December, was for Anglicans working across the world in health.
Since then, the Church of England has partnered with UNICEF, the National Health Service and UK faith partners in launching the Give the World a Shot campaign in UK. Anglicans can add their voices to this and other similar global advocacy and fund-raising campaigns. Anglicans from the nascent AHCN have also taken part in the WHO Faith Based Organisations communities of practice in developing advocacy and training webinars on Covid-19 vaccines for faith communities world-wide. You can sign up to receive information about these here.
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