Every time I talk about having a better health ministry other than medical missions, people ask a lot of questions. Here are some quick answers to questions about why we should move forward and level-up from doing medical missions. Remember, we are referring to medical missions which are one time, big time events for purposes other than improving health. Again, medical missions are beneficial to a certain extent but there is a better way to do health ministry especially in resource poor developing countries – community-based primary health care. For suggestions on other health ministry visit this post.
First, would we rather allow people get sick or go to albularyo instead of giving medical treatment?
The question assumes that the albularyo is a quack and only western medicine is valid. This question also assumes that only medical professionals can help people get well. Traditional and Alternative Medicine is recognized by the WHO and the Alma Ata Declaration as an effective tool to improve health. The Philippines declared November as Traditional and Alternative Medicine month, just so you know. Now albularyos cannot address all kinds of illnesses but to dismiss them all as non-sense is wrong. And, NO, people need to be empowered to take care of their health. We know that health professionals are partners with their patients in improving their health. The short answer, NO, there is a better way than the messianic approach of giving the people good health vs. empowering the community to take care of their health.
Second, this is our medical mission should we not do it our own way?
The NGOs, private groups and societies must partner with the government in giving health care. Medical services is a responsibility of the government, we do not compete with them. Rather, we work with them and complement their job. The quick answer, private groups must coordinate medical mission with the local government health unit.
Third, our medical mission targets prevalent disease in the community. Does it not help?
Yes, it helps. But it usually is just a temporary solution to a deep problem. One serious question needs to be asked about what makes that disease prevalent in the community? The common TB among Filipinos may be due to the poor sanitation and congested living condition of the area. Giving medicines is a temporary solution because after they are treated, they will still go back to the same living situation that caused the disease. Educating the community, empowering them to take responsibility of their health and helping them improve their living condition will better address the problem.
Fourth, cannot medical missions by religious groups plant the seed of God’s love for them to be transformed in God’s own time?
All of God’s reason for action is born out of God’s love. For God so love the world he sent His only son to heal the sick, feed the hungry and give them life. Medical missions as expression of one’s love to the other by making sure he gets healthy are praiseworthy. Health is the purpose of the health ministry. But if the mission is to persuade them to convert and become members of your church is another story. There is a big theological difference between the two, (something that I might have to write on a separate post.) Simply put, there is a difference between healing a non-Christian because you want him to believe what you believe, and healing a non-Christian because you want him to be healed – as an expression of God’s love.
Fifth, why not medical missions?
Medical missions have some benefits especially if done the correct way. But the point is there is a better way to do health ministry other than the medical mission. A way that is more cost efficient and sustainable. There is a method that improves not only an individual’s health but also that of the whole community. It is called the community-based primary health care. And it is time we have this kind of ministry. If there is a better way, why settle for less?
You might also want to read: Why doctors do not join medical missions?