Action for Health in the Americas (AHA)

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Action for Health in the Americas (AHA) is the North American counterpart of Educación Popular En Salud (EPES), based in Chile. EPES has been supporting sustainable community-based public health initiatives among the poor in Chile since 1982.

We believe in the power of people to promote their own healthy communities, given the proper financial, educational and technical support.

AHA was founded in 2006 to ensure that supporters in the U.S. received regular updates on the work of EPES and could make tax-deductible donations that would immediately support the work of EPES.

EPES is experiencing a perfect storm this year – but it’s not too late to help this great work continue!

Dear friends of EPES and AHA,

I see the above photograph from a recent EPES workshop on women’s health and I am reminded of so many things I like about the work of EPES, starting with the way they have consistently built community in the midst of poverty, discrimination and natural disasters, over more than three decades. I am moved by how these circles of education and support have spread across some 21 countries through EPES’ International Training Program and how EPES designed and implemented a Community Health Agent program for all of Chile.

 

To learn more about these and all of EPES’ programs, please take a look at the most recent EPES Updates available on our website. The November 2018 Update clearly demonstrates the impact of your dollars—from local healthy eating workshops to international collaboration with Puerto Rico and the Hope Foundation for African Women. GRACIAS to all of you who have so steadily supported the mission of EPES and helped make this possible!

 

The Action for Health in the Americas (AHA) all-volunteer board recently met via conference call to discuss EPES’ budget and how AHA can continue to help stabilize those finances. EPES’ operating budget is made up of a variety of grants and donations, and AHA has historically contributed (because of YOUR donations) about 15% of that budget.

 

Things have changed quite a bit during the course of 2018. EPES is encountering what we consider to be a “perfect storm” of factors that are negatively impacting its budget and work. Those factors are:
  1. Chile is considered an “High Income Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Country” and, as such, is not eligible for international donations that are tied to that classification, even though so many Chileans—especially the ones EPES works with—live in deep poverty.
  2. Chile is one of the most unequal countries in the world and the benefits of the higher income economy are not fairly distributed (among OECD countries, Chile is THE MOST unequal).
  3. The right-wing government of Sebastian Piñera took office this past March, and has cut many of the primary health care initiatives that EPES was able to receive funding to implement. For example, EPES is a key trainer in the government’s Community Health Agent program, generating more than US$400,000 in 2017—but that is dropping to US$0 in 2019.
  4. A Harvard study found that Chile is a country with one of the lowest levels of philanthropic giving.

The support you provide through AHA is incredibly important at this moment! Virtually all of the donations you make via AHA—minus minor costs like bank transfer or credit card processing fees—go directly to EPES to help fill in gaps in their budget, without the strings that come attached to many grants and institutional donations. This type of support is critical for EPES to be able to stay flexible, continue to keep staff on board, and implement their many high-impact programs.

Thank you AGAIN for your ongoing support of EPES. If you have plans to make any final 2018 contributions to organizations doing good work, please do consider AHA and EPES!

You may DONATE ONLINE HERE or send a check made out to “Action for Health in the Americas” to:

Action for Health in the Americas
c/o Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
4 Northcrest Drive
Clifton Park, NY 12065

AHA is recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS under Section 501(c)(3) and donations are deductible as allowable by the IRS.

Best wishes for the new year!
Chris Mills MD FRCPC
AHA Board President

EPES has been busy in 2018 – read the November Update here!

Dear friends of EPES and AHA,

As you will see in this Update, EPES is tireless in its commitment to health and human  rights—in the Nutrition and Justice Program; in Valparaiso, where communities that are still recovering from devastating fires in 2014 are now facing personal tragedy; in training workers of Chile’s National Disability Service; and in Puerto Rico, where EPES staff shared lessons from their earthquake recovery experience with communities affected by Hurricane María.

This important—more than important, essential—work would not be possible without your continuing support. Heartfelt thanks for your solidarity. I wish you peace and health in 2019.

Christina Mills MD FRCPC
President, Action for Health in the Americas

Read the Update here! https://ahaepes.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/epesupdatenov2018.pdf

Support the work of EPES – via a tax deductible online donation through AHA – at https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/ActionforHealthintheAmeri/donate.html!

The May 2018 EPES Update is Here!

**Read the May 2018 EPES Update here**

Please consider donating to support this great work by clicking on Donate!

Dear friends of EPES and AHA,

I don’t know about you, but lately it seems to me that the news is just one disaster after another, whether it be an earthquake, a flood, a tornado, a forest fire or a volcanic eruption. And that’s just the natural disasters, never mind the social ones we humans wreak with our greedy strivings. With the election of billionaire Sebastián Piñera as president, things look particularly bleak in Chile. There is widespread anxiety about what it will mean for health policy nationally, for funding for local efforts that have been so crucial to EPES’ work, and in general for Chilean society, already one of the most unequal on the planet. While Chile’s macroeconomic indicators look favorable, they mask huge income gaps within Chilean society; e.g., the top 1% bring in more than 30% of GDP, the top 10% more than 75%. And these gaps are reflected in health disparities.

The communities where EPES works have a heavy disease burden, compounded by the insecurity brought on by the increasing presence of drug trafficking and violence. When all this starts to overwhelm me, learning about EPES’ latest activities never fails to revive my spirits. When I was in Chile in March, I was honoured with an invitation to dinner during EPES’ annual planning retreat and had a chance to witness some of their discussions. I was literally moved to tears by the team’s dedication and passion, evident in every word and gesture.

This January saw the ninth delivery of the Escuela, EPES’ International Course on Popular Education in Health. There are now 167 graduates from 21 countries! I was particularly moved to learn of the participation of three women from Puerto Rico who are applying the EPES model in their work of recovery and community building in the aftermath of Hurricane María. With hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans still without power six months after the disaster, such work is vital.

Also in January, EPES provided Health Ministry primary care staff with training on participatory community strategies for health, part of an ongoing series of workshops through which EPES helps Chile’s health workforce develop essential competencies for working with communities.

When forest fires engulfed thousands of homes in Valparaiso in 2014, EPES was right there, one of the first organizations to respond to the emergency. EPES continues to demonstrate that it is in it for the long haul. This Update shares details of a fire prevention project in the Las Cañas community of Valparaiso, aimed at reducing vulnerability to fires by building public awareness and community capacity for fire prevention, control and management.

Other articles in this Update describe health group priority setting, EPES’ ongoing work on nutrition and food security, international influence, and the launch of a short video celebrating EPES’ 35 years working for health, dignity and justice in Chile.

The late Tommy Douglas once said, “Courage, my friends. ‘Tis not too late to build a better world.” Let us all take courage from EPES’ example. And thank you so, so much for all you do to support EPES in continuing to build that better world.

In solidarity,

Christina Mills MD FRCPC

President, Action for Health in the Americas

EPES International Training Course graduates 167th educator!

167 educators from 21 countries have graduated from EPES’ International Training Course

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Seventeen people, hailing from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Uruguay and several regions of Chile, graduated from EPES’ Ninth International Training Course on Popular Education for Health, held in Santiago and Concepción January 7 – 17, 2018.

The latest graduates brought the universe of trained health advocates to a total 167 people, who put in practice in their respective 21 countries community health work from a human rights approach, guided by methodology they learn from EPES’ International Course.

Since the inception in January 2010 of the International Training Course, popularly known as “la Escuela”, people from diverse backgrounds and social contexts have gained understanding of the benefits of popular education methods in promoting dignified health. They return from each annual Escuela equipped to form community health groups, strengthen local work and explore the role churches can play to achieve the right to health.

This year’s Escuela was enriched by the presence and participation of three women from Puerto Rico:  Elda Guadalupe Carrasquillo, environmental health education teacher, from Vieques; Aida Edward, community health promoter and leader of the town of Loíza; and Aurinés Torres-Sánchez, University of Puerto Rico Medical School professor, who participated in the second International Training Course held in 2011. Elda Guadalupe and Aida Edward traveled to Chile thanks to a scholarship made possible by the EPES Foundation.

Elda, Aida and Aurinés met, they say, “thanks to Maria”, the category 5 hurricane that devastated the island September 19 and 20, dramatically altering the lives of thousands. In the face of governmental chaos and disorganization, people came together as first responders of their own communities. In wake of the storm, six months ago, when their paths crossed for the first time, the three helped spawn community-based organizations drawing from the EPES popular education for health model.

The Ninth International Training Course featured a presentation from Elda, Aida, and a Aurinés, entitled: Application of Popular Education in Health in post-hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico: Lessons from a colonial state. Fellow Escuela participants and EPES staff learned about Puerto Rico’s social and political situation, with its awakened conscience in 2017, expressed in demonstrations and protests in response to an economic crisis that deepened after hurricanes Irma and Maria, the latter the most powerful to strike the island since 1929.

The women described how their towns of Vieques and Loíza have reemerged with a more unified community, in part as a result of popular education methodology that enabled them to train health promoters and organize a flurry of integral health and environmental activities.

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In addition to learning about the Puerto Rican experience, in Concepción, Escuela participants learned about EPES’ community work in the Biobío Region and visited the locale of Penco. They also met women leaders of Villa Montahue, built for families who lost everything after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami, and last summer found themselves protecting their homes from yet another catastrophe: forest fires. The women spoke of the experience of having to rebuild their neighborhoods and their lives from scratch as well as the fire prevention activities that now have become routine.

Previously, in Santiago, the International Training Course conducted workshops on social determinants of health, with a special focus on gender, enjoyed hands-on learning through EPES educational board games, and acquired know-how on methodologies for promoting and recovering nutritional health, as well as other issues.

The Rev. Lisandro Orlov, theologian and pastor with the United Evangelical Church of Argentina, imparted the course “Faith Communities and the Promotion of Rights: Health  without Stigma or Discrimination” on his pastoral experience in HIV and AIDS prevention. Pastor Orlov, who is a member of EPES multi-disciplinary team of health educators during the Escuela, promotes a model for working on HIV/AIDS based on a message of freedom, rather than the prevailing medical, ethical-legal models.

The students also carried out three community actions, together with the Llareta Health Group, Circle of Women for Health, and the David Werner group. With these veteran health promoters, they alerted shoppers at the two open air markets of El Bosque to the high sugar content in soft drinks, urging people to consume more water and fruit. In addition, they painted a mural and learned about historic memory of the La Bandera neighborhood’s courageous struggle for social justice.

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No Escuela would be complete without its “Cultural Night” and students of this ninth version enjoyed an evening of music, dance, theater and poetry. Participants displayed their artistic abilities, sharing the distinctive cultures of their respective countries.

According to Karen Anderson, ELCA Global Mission Personnel and Director of the EPES International Training Course, under the slogan “Learning by doing to promote and expand the right to health”, EPES will soon unfurl promotional efforts for its Tenth International Training Course to be held in January 2019. A decade after the inaugural Escuela, EPES promises to foster a new generation of future health promoters beyond the borders of Chile, where EPES yearly reaches more than 145.000 women and their families in the country’s poor communities, through innovative strategies and the construction of tools for empowerment and collective action.

 

A look back at 2017 – concerts and EPES activity

Dear friends of EPES and AHA,

EPES has been busier than ever in the last half of its 35th anniversary year.

In September, we celebrated this special anniversary with a concert in Minneapolis featuring longtime allies, Holly Near and John McCutcheon. More than 300 of EPES’ friends and supporters from ten states and three countries gathered in Circle Pines, Minnesota for an evening of music, laughter, fellowship and reflection. It was a fitting celebration, both of EPES’ work for justice and dignity and of the people who have made it possible over these 35 years. Including you!

In this update you’ll also read about EPES’ activities related to immigrant rights, domestic violence, tobacco control policy, nutrition and justice, fire prevention and health worker training. Such news is a welcome antidote to the cynicism and despair that can overtake us when we’re continually barraged by news of injustice, indifference and catastrophe. I don’t know about you, but I need to hear this good news, that EPES is in it for the long haul.

Wishing you peace and health in 2018, with heartfelt thanks for your continuing solidarity,

Christina Mills MD FRCPC
President, Action for Health in the Americas

Check out the latest EPES Newsletter