People's Health Movement: a world health organization for the people

Wim De Ceukelaire has just returned from Bangkok. The TWHA director went there to join a People's Health Movement meeting. A world health organization, for people, not for the healthcare industry. That calls for a cup of coffee.
Stronger opposition against commercialization of healthcare

Who are on this picture with you?

Those are all people involved in PHM, the People's Health Movement. Chiara, our colleague working from Italy is also there. She is the one with the blue scarf. TWHA is pretty active within this international movement. We have been campaigning globally together for the right to health since it was founded in 2000. Some of us do this individually, others are backed by social movements and we do it through our NGO. We support the PHM’s administration and also back them financially.

Africa representative Linda is also there, the one with the red skirt

Yes, Linda (video) was our guest last year, both at Geneeskunde Voor Het Volk (Belgian docters) and at ManiFiesta (a Belgian political and cultural event). Others may recognize Anneleen, Hani, Claudio, Amit or Andreas too. All of them have paid us visits in Brussels. You just can’t underestimate how much we learn from those contacts. And it’s definitely not one way traffic, it goes in both directions.

All of them are in the Steering Council...

Correct. Our Steering Council is a sort of general assembly with about 25 members that include representatives from all regions. Eight of them form the Bureau. They are in charge of the PHM’s day-to-day business.

You only hold one meeting a year?

Not at all! We hold meetings all the time. PHM’s resources are limited and we don’t meet each other too often as international meetings are very expensive. And let’s not forget about the ecological footprint of all this air travel. This is why we hold our regular meetings through Skype. You may find me sitting in front of my laptop early in the morning for an online meeting while our antipodes are getting ready for bedtime.

Meeting is priceless...

We try to physically see each other once a year nonetheless. In order to save the environment and our finances, we prefer to do it in the margin of some other activity. At the end of January, there was a conference in Bangkok a number our members had been invited to. We took advantage of their presence to hold our own PHM meeting. There were people from Australia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Egypt, South Africa, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the UK, Mexico and Argentina. The South was underrepresented as we have to be aware of ticket expenses. But combining our meeting with the other conference allowed us to meet up without too many extra costs.

Which topic stands out for you?

The fight for the right to health, in every country, be it rich or poor. It is a fight for reliable public healthcare and healthy living conditions. If we can join forces our impact will grow. This needs resources and that’s why budgets were also on the agenda in Bangkok. We have made an important decision on stepping up our efforts in internationally coordinating our fight against the commercialization of health care.

Wat does TWHA plan to do with your meeting’s outcome?

We have elected a new Steering Council and a new Bureau. David Sanders and Chiara Bodini have been appointed presidents. David is a pediatrician and professor from South Africa. He has earned a global reputation for standing up against institutions such as the World Bank. Chiara is the PHM’s European coordinator. As you have noticed, TWHA, Chiara and I will all keep on supporting the People's Health Movement. Because they need our support. Do we have time for some quick advertising? Anyone making a donation to TWHA and adding it is for 'PHM' makes an instant contribution to the worldwide movement for the right to health.