Member Spotlight: CCIH

September 26, 2022

The Power of Faith in Global Health

Author: Doug Fountain, Executive Director, Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH)

Doug Fountain serves as CCIH Executive Director. Previously, he was Vice President for Strategy and Impact for Medical Teams International (MTI). Before working for MTI, Doug served on the executive staff at Uganda Christian University, where he began in 2004 as the head of the Department of Health Sciences and later served as Deputy Vice Chancellor for Development and External Relations. Doug helped establish the Christian Journal for Global Health to promote evidence-based practice.

Too often, there is a stereotype that faith-based communities are not on board with “modern” health agendas. What I have seen as Executive Director of Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) is the faith community embracing and supporting global health initiatives as innovators in holistic health, owners of very sizeable health systems, and strategic partners in complex health programming. Faith communities and their leaders are a trusted part of the community and vital in ensuring positive health outcomes and strong health systems.  

One example is the Christian Advocacy for Family Planning in Africa (CAFPA) effort, a seven-year project that came to a close in December 2021. This program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, partnered with religious leaders to help engage their communities and advocate to their governments to include faith-based organizations (FBOs) in supply chains and allocate funds for commodities and health worker training. CCIH partnered with the Christian Health Association of Kenya (CHAK) and the Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ), and early on, with the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN) in Nigeria. These, in turn, worked with local religious leaders as advocates. 

The results were significant and impactful. Religious leader advocacy, guided by CHAK, CHAZ, and EPN, increased public and community support for family planning (FP). Political commitments for FP in Kenya and Zambia led to a multi-year actionable roadmap designed to help governments achieve their FP goals, such as stable financing for FP.

Engaging faith communities increases access and quality of services for people on the margins. We have seen this after decades of experience with HIV/AIDS and more recent experience with Ebola in West Africa. 

Right now, CCIH and our partners work closely with faith leaders to address vaccine hesitancy generally and to combat COVID-19. How would we ensure faith leaders have accurate information and are comfortable promoting vaccination? Here are some promising practices we discovered through this work:

  • Support outreach by medical professionals to faith leaders to discuss vaccines and encourage them to promote vaccination among their congregations.
  • Encourage faith leaders to promote vaccination in community meetings
  • Utilize mass or social media, including WhatsApp groups, to encourage vaccination
  • Share videos of faith leaders (especially high-level leaders) receiving the vaccine or encouraging the vaccine.

The faith community is integral to addressing any global health challenge. According to the Pew Research Center, over 84% of the world’s population belong to a major religion, and over 80% say religion is an important part of their daily lives. By partnering with and supporting faith communities and preparing clergy and lay leaders to highlight global health challenges and opportunities, we can utilize institutions that have the trust of local and often-marginalized communities. We cannot wait to build partnerships and strengthen health systems in the middle of a crisis; resilience must be built before the next epidemic hits. 

Reverend Carol Mberia of the Methodist Church and Venerable Reverend Silas Micheni, Archdeacon, Anglican Church of Kenya in Meru County appeared on WERU TV to discuss family planning. Photo by Jane Kishoyian/CHAK

Organization’s Mission 

CCIH is a global network of Christian organizations and individuals committed to advancing health and wholeness. Inspired by our Christian faith and committed to evidence-based practice, CCIH envisions a world where all have access to quality healthcare and prevention services. CCIH has over 100 organizational and 200+ individual members operating in more than 90 countries. 

OUR MISSION: To mobilize and empower our network to promote global health and wholeness from a Christian perspective.
OUR GOALS: To share information and provide a forum for capacity-building, networking, fellowship, and advocacy to the ever-increasing spectrum of organizations and individuals interested in how transformational Christian faith has a positive impact on international health.

Reverend Felister Mwenda of the Redeemed Gospel Church in Kilifi, Kenya speaking to other faith leaders in a quarterly project meeting. Photo by Kathy Erb/CCIH