We define health as well-being, including freedom from injury or illness. The World Health Organization has defined health quite broadly, as far back as the end of World War II, to include well-being in many areas, such as the physical, mental, and social realms.
You may feel called to health advocacy in a number of ways, including serving as a chaplain, working on behalf of war veterans with PTSD, or working to minister to those facing challenges with illness or mental illness.
A Few Ripplemakers in Health Advocacy
The following four social entrepreneurs have been singled out for their pioneering work in health and mental health, and have been honored by The Elfenworks Foundation with an In Harmony With Hope award:
- Rosalynn Carter, co-founder of The Carter Center, Cartercenter.org created the Center’s Mental Health Program to combat the stigma against mental illness and promote improved mental health care. She chairs the Center’s Mental Health Task Force of eminent persons in the field, and each year brings together leaders of national mental health organizations to foster consensus on pivotal issues. Her advocacy over the decades led to the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act in 2008. She is a tireless advocate on behalf of those who would otherwise be without a voice, lending her voice to many important causes, such as early childhood immunization through the nationwide “Every Child by Two” campaign and assisting caregivers through the Rosalynn Carter Institute.
- Dr. Paul Farmer, Co-Founder, Partners In Health, pih.org, has been successfully delivering quality health care to millions of the world’s poor for nearly 30 years. It began with a visit to Haiti. Today, PIH has a presence in 12 countries, including the US. All projects share common goals: to care for patients, to alleviate the root causes of disease in their communities, and to share lessons learned around the world. PIH’s Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment project employs community health workers to monitor a group of Boston’s ill and marginalized patients and ensure that their medical and social needs are being met.
- Dr. Jack McConnell, Founder, VolunteersinMedicine.org (VIM) created the first VIM Clinic in 1994, when he paired a group of retired medical personnel who were searching for a way to continue practicing their profession with a large uninsured population on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He worked with the state legislature to pass a bill to create a special volunteer medical license that would allow retired physicians to practice medicine at free clinics without taking the licensure exam or paying the fee. Today, the Volunteers in Medicine Institute shepherds the replication of that program—there are 86 VIM clinics in 25 states whose 11,000 volunteers deliver care to more than 100,000 uninsured Americans each year.
- Rebecca Onie, Founder, HealthLeads, was just 17 when she lit upon a simple but powerful idea: college students could volunteer to work with physician/nurse mentors to locate critically needed social resources for children visiting pediatric clinics. As Onie learned, a medical approach does not always solve a child’s chronic health problems if the family is making decisions between paying rent or putting food on the table—much less paying for the prescription. Today, 900 student volunteers help 18,000 people obtain critical resources every year through Health Lead’s Family Help Desks. And, a new generation of leaders is being training to change the system of health care delivery in this country.
The above innovators would welcome support and encouragement. Their websites may include current needs, and you can also reach out to them and ask about partnership opportunities. No doubt they’d be happy for the help.