COLLINGSWOOD, New Jersey — As ebola continues its deadly march across the African continent and the Islamic State continues to brutalize the ethnic and religious minorities of Iraq, it is easy for an observer of international news to develop a pessimistic view of the world.
However, while these awful events currently dominate world headlines, going under-reported are the organizations devoted to and making strides toward the betterment of the world. The Global Health Action (GHA), a nonprofit based in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of these organizations.
Using a community-based approach to tackle health problems in the developing world, this organization focuses mainly on health education and management. This training–not to mention their extensive community involvement–is seen as key to empowering communities to create sustainable and long-lasting change for their betterment.
In the process of this training, the organization also creates basic medical services in the areas involved and helps create more employment options. A main method used by the organization is to work with the community to identify and then solve health issues in the area.
On its website, GHA makes clear its commitment to empowerment in its description of the organization’s role in the world as a “catalyst.” The nonprofit merely helps others achieve their potential through the proliferation of health-related skills and knowledge to local leaders and organizations in various countries.
Started in 1972, GHA was originally known as the International Nursing Services Association. The nonprofit was founded by Dr. Ada Fort and Virginia Proctor, both administrators at the Emory University School of Nursing.
The program’s main goal was to help health services in the developing world by training nurses from these countries in health and management education. After training, nurses would then return to their countries of origin, where they could further function as not only nurses but as leaders and educators, passing their skills on to others.
In 1993, the organization was renamed Global Health Action in an effort to reflect its now “broader purpose and global outreach.” Today, GHA not only continues to work in health leadership and management training but also strives to institute a number of community-based programs worldwide.
Since the renaming of the organization, it has created a multitude of projects in various locales across the globe, including the Rural Women’s Health Program in Heilongjiang Province, China (2003); the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Children Child Survival Project in Haiti (2004) and a field office in Nairobi, Kenya (2005). In 2005, GHA also conducted a health management course in Senegal concerning HIV/AIDS.
In the 40 years of the organization’s existence, GHA has had a visible impact on the world. There are now GHA graduates in 97 countries worldwide working to address the various health needs of their communities and nations.
In Haiti, for example, GHA has trained over 1,200 community health workers and over 4,000 goat farmers. In China, the group has trained over 600 national and provincial officials in health management.
Also important to note is the exponential effect the organization’s focus on education and training can have for the benefit of the world. In China’s Heilongjiang Province, GHA trained 70 county-level health managers. These managers, in turn, trained more than 10,000 primary care workers. These primary care workers have gone on to reach 1.8 million rural Chinese women with health information services.
One of the main regions in the world that this non-profit has directed its energy and attention toward is the small Caribbean nation of Haiti. Victim of a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake in 2010 in which over 250,000 died, Haiti further possesses a rather troubled economic history.
GHA has been working in the nation in an effort to improve conditions for the poor there since 1980. Within Haiti, the organization currently has programs in community health, rural development, livestock training and management.
The community health program works by supporting a system of health workers, birth attendants and clinics across the nation to institute basic health care for those in the area. Using this system, GHA has helped provide 27,000 rural Haitians in 2011 alone with access to basic health services. This is a number that includes over 11,300 children and 9,200 women.
In the same year, the nonprofit trained more than 200 community leaders and health providers in cholera prevention and control. It further reached more than 6,400 Haitians in health outreaches during 2011.
Though bad news and hateful militant organizations may dominate the news, behind the scenes, there are organizations like Global Health Action who are quietly changing the world for the better.
– Albert Cavallaro