On World Health Day, 7th April 2021, the Anglican Health and Community Network (AHCN) was launched, following the formal approval of its formation by the Anglican Consultative Council’s Standing Committee in February. (The Anglican Communion Health and Community Network launches today - Anglican Alliance).
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 Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Revd Michael Beasley said:
“Anglicans around the world contribute extensively to the health and wellbeing of the places where they live, work and worship. In 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. 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.”
The new Anglican Health and Community Network supports Anglicans working across the world in health care, whether in clinical settings or in the community.
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.
The Rt Revd Michael Beasley is the Bishop of Bath and Wells 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.
The 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. (His introductory remarks are via video link on the Anglican Alliance (AA) website).
Dr Janice Tang 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. (Her introductory remarks are via video link on the AA website)
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 demonstrates that it is possible to draw on Anglican health expertise in a specific health crisis; the AHCN is beginning to draw on some of that health expertise and experience. It is exploring ways to make these skills more accessible, available, communicated and coordinated in other situations too, for example around Malaria and Mental Health. The 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 it is a complex social, community and health system, which underpins health in many different ways. This past two years has made this more apparent than ever, as communities have provided vital support to neighbours during the Covid-19 restrictions.
The AHCN has six primary functions, to:
1) 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.
2) 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 in partnership with other Interfaith and Ecumenical partners such as Religions for Peace and the World Council of Churches.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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.
6) Prepare: Document lessons learned and examples of good practice across the Anglican Communion, organizations, and networks to inform planning for the next health emergency.
You are invited to share this information widely across your provinces with churches, health related projects and individuals.
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 monthly, then please e-mail the ACHN co-coordinators, Dr Ben Bronnert-Walker and Dr Sally Smith at [email protected].
These AHCN.COPs are all open for people to join.
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 AHCN developed a joint policy position paper on vaccine equity with the Anglican Alliance.
AHCN members are now actively engaged in three interfaith communities of practice established by WHO to help guide partnership activities with faith communities in response to COVID-19 and to co-develop information and resources on Covid vaccines to address vaccine hesitancy, misinformation and promote vaccine uptake.
With the support of the network, 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 the UK – an approach that is now being extended to other countries. Anglicans from the nascent AHCN have also taken part in the WHO interfaith communities of practice (WHO COPs) 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.
In July 2021 it was a pleasure to have over 60 people from across the Communion join us for the first Webinar offered by the newly launched Anglican Health and Community Network (AHCN) on the Cross Border Malaria Initiative kindly hosted by the JC Flowers Foundation. We were most grateful to Rebecca Vander Meulen and her colleagues for lending their skills, coaching, technical assistance, translation and zoom platform to enable this great webinar to take place. We were also grateful to the Anglican Alliance for providing support to the French translation.
This is the link to the full webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0hHOVlDExA
One recurring theme in our calls with clergy and lay leaders across the Communion this year is the increasing and unmet need for mental health support. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the physical, social, and psychological burden of care on family members, clergy, and lay leaders alike. Mental health challenges are more prevalent and evident now than in recent years.
The AHCN is exploring ways to support both clergy and lay leaders in strengthening our own psychosocial wellbeing and providing quality support to others. To this end the AHCN will work in partnership with other Anglican partners to explore the mental stresses and needs faced by Anglican clergy and health workers in their ministry. Through a series of conversations aimed at ‘listening, sharing and praying together’, we hope the community of practice will grow, and begin to identify together practical ways to respond.
18 September 2021
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