27th International Conference
of the Red Cross and Red Crescent



Organisers : French Red Cross, Swedish Red Cross, Belgian Red Cross and Nigerian Red Cross

The world is currently facing a global health crisis. Despite medical advances and increasing life expectancy, there is disturbing evidence of rising disparities in health status amongst people worldwide. There is now an urgent need to place health at the top of the policy agenda. Every effort is needed to regain the imperative that health, and health for all, is one of the most important goals for everyone to strive for.

When looking at the major health issues (i.e. communicable diseases and injuries), worldwide it strikes us that these issues are not new and in fact are far less a result of a lack of high tech interventions, advanced medical knowledge or the need for more hospitals, but far more of the way people are living at the family and community level. Not to contest the need to have more health centres, medicines or technology, but it is certainly true that a change in the lifestyle and quality of the living environment would have far more impact and the major public health problems. Therefore, a massive and long term support to health education is needed, in order to change basic behavior at the family and community level.

With health education a holistic approach to health can easier be addressed, showing the links between mental/physical and internal/external health. Each of us has an internal capacity which some of us have to rediscover to be much in harmony with their body and mind - life energy. It also can deliver a thoughtful message of the importance of finding inner peace. Accordingly, we shall not be afraid of entering unchartered territory since we should be much more a learning organisation. People can with very simple measures and means learn how to keep good health and provide the initial response to an emergency.

Building the capacity to deal with daily health needs is merely to equip individuals, families and communities to be better prepared and responsive at time of crisis, such as disaster, epidemic or conflict. A poor person's only asset can be his/her body. That is one of the answers to why poverty is one of the major factors that influences people's vulnerability and health. Development research has shown that preventive health and especially health education is one of the most effective measures to fight poverty.

Effective health education is not dependent on huge resources or technical expertise. Good health and life saving measures are not on the first hand a result of well developed health care but rather a result of good infrastructure and communication tools since that makes it possible to reach out with health education. In today's world the biggest obstacles to "health for all" are not technical, but rather social and political. A particular focus is needed on the participation and involvement of the concerned people (the vulnerable) and actors (the volunteers), for the assessment of the problems, the prioritisation of the actions and the evaluation of results and impact.

The Red Cross/Red Crescent has a long history of working in the field of health. From the early beginning the focus being of course to care for the wounded on the battlefield which in the 1920's was enlarged to comprise health education and first aid training. The Red Cross/Red Crescent is through its first aid programs a giant in education and a reference related voice. Since the last decade efforts have been veered towards community participation.

An approach that has shown being a winning one since it takes into account the particularities of the target populations and their living environments. It has been translated into the First Aid policy adopted by the 1999 General Assembly. This policy emphasise and highlight the fact that Red Cross/Red Crescent First Aid training should be community based oriented, requesting the participation of the beneficiaries and including information on how to prevent injury and illness. This service is much more efficient being focused on target groups of the population, such as the children, as well as being implemented within the living environment of the people. That recognises First Aid as a privileged vehicle for the Red Cross/Red Crescent to contribute to health promotion and education. As members of the communities which they serve and represent, volunteers have a central and essential role in the provision of First Aid. Furthermore the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has to look at flexible roles of the volunteers according to the changing needs of the communities. They could be facilitators, catalysts, advocates, counsellors, educators, etc. The volunteers should accordingly receive training and support to achieve their tasks. Further action is needed fast being cost-effective. What is needed is a consistent commitment from all the concerned parties through working relationships and partnerships between all the concerned parties : governments, UN agencies, National Societies, the public and the private sector, as well as the communities. There are complementary roles to improve the lives of the vulnerable people, to reduce the costs of health care systems and to provide positive impact on the socio-economic development of communities and societies.

Creating a favourable environment for health education, particularly thorough First Aid training activities, will help people and their communities to better understand and share the responsibility for protecting and saving more lives.



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The International Criminal Court

Volunteering 2000

People On War

Widowhood and armed conflict

Working in partnership

The humanitarian challenge of small arms proliferation

Fight against AIDS in developing countries

Ensuring respect for International Humanitarian Law

The SIrUS Project and reviewing the legality of new weapons

Use and development of SPHERE standards

Health and first aid training