This is the second component of the APH strategy to achieve health for all.   In order to have health, we must also struggle for liberation.

A lot of what we can learn on making structural change will come from those places in the world where there are active struggles for social and economic transformation.  The local health sector is often deeply immersed in these struggles, with their own health programs geared towards supporting the movement for social change and tackling the structural and social determinants of health.  The power of the elites, the institutions of imperialism, must be completely transformed in order to address inequalities and structural violence in health!

It is from these active struggles that we learn the role health work play in exposing and opposing structural violence, and how health work can and should contribute to liberation movements and struggles.

People Power! Is the place to start.

It is easy to find information on the internet and in textbooks on public health about doctors who gave their skills and their lives in service of the most oppressed and exploited in an alternate to biomedical medicine which many call social medicine.

Freedom fighters such as Dr. Che Guevara and Dr. Salvador Allende prioritized the struggles for national and social liberation as the first steps towards healthy communities for all.   And many Canadians will have heard of the surgeon Dr. Norman Bethune, who dedicated his medical studies and skills towards helping the Communist Party of China heal the Red Army fighters and build a national health care system for all.  However, the work of these individual doctors was not in isolation from the movements which they served! These doctors used their skills in the service of the broader aim of building people power.

In order to practice liberation medicine, we must first have a liberation movement!

What is a liberation movement?

 There are two broad types of liberation movements.  Those that aim to free nations from colonial occupation and unilateral direct exploitation – often called National Liberation Movements; and those that are fundamentally anti-imperialist, internationalist movements against capitalism and the fundamental economic structures of society – often called Social Liberation Movements. 

 We can see dozens of current examples of liberation movements, often containing elements of both national and social liberation struggles.  These movements, from Cuba and Venezuela, to Palestine, to Nepal and India, to the Philippines, and to Indigenous struggles against colonial occupation in Canada are all current examples of struggles we can support and learn from in the health sector. 

 If we are to truly address the structural determinants of health, we’ve got to take a liberatory approach to our health work.

 What is liberation medicine?

 We understand liberation medicine to be a community-based democratic process, rather than a particular method of medical practice.  The basic building block of liberation medicine is community organization.  Barrio Nuevo in Venezuela or the Community Based Health Programs of the Philippine revolutionary movement are excellent examples of liberation medicine in action.

 While liberation medicine is a long-term goal of the APH, in the short term we start now by actively engaging communities to determine their own health needs and start working towards meeting those needs in a collective fashion.

A lot of what we can learn on making structural change will come from those places in the world where there are active struggles for social and economic transformation.  The local health sector is often deeply immersed in these struggles, with their own health programs geared towards supporting the movement for social change and tackling the structural and social determinants of health.  The power of the elites, the institutions of imperialism, must be completely transformed in order to address inequalities and structural violence in health!

It is from these active struggles that we learn the role health work play in exposing and opposing structural violence, and how health work can and should contribute to liberation movements and struggles.

People Power! Is the place to start.

It is easy to find information on the internet and in textbooks on public health about doctors who gave their skills and their lives in service of the most oppressed and exploited in an alternate to biomedical medicine which many call social medicine.

Freedom fighters such as Dr. Che Guevara and Dr. Salvador Allende prioritized the struggles for national and social liberation as the first steps towards healthy communities for all.   And many Canadians will have heard of the surgeon Dr. Norman Bethune, who dedicated his medical studies and skills towards helping the Communist Party of China heal the Red Army fighters and build a national health care system for all.  However, the work of these individual doctors was not in isolation from the movements which they served! These doctors used their skills in the service of the broader aim of building people power.

In order to practice liberation medicine, we must first have a liberation movement!

What is a liberation movement?

There are two broad types of liberation movements.  Those that aim to free nations from colonial occupation and unilateral direct exploitation – often called National Liberation Movements; and those that are fundamentally anti-imperialist, internationalist movements against capitalism and the fundamental economic structures of society – often called Social Liberation Movements. 

We can see dozens of current examples of liberation movements, often containing elements of both national and social liberation struggles.  These movements, from Cuba and Venezuela, to Palestine, to Nepal and India, to the Philippines, and to Indigenous struggles against colonial occupation in Canada are all current examples of struggles we can support and learn from in the health sector. 

If we are to truly address the structural determinants of health, we’ve got to take a liberatory approach to our health work.

What is liberation medicine?

We understand liberation medicine to be a community-based democratic process, rather than a particular method of medical practice.  The basic building block of liberation medicine is community organization.  Barrio Nuevo in Venezuela or the Community Based Health Programs of the Philippine revolutionary movement are excellent examples of liberation medicine in action.

While liberation medicine is a long-term goal of the APH, in the short term we start now by actively engaging communities to determine their own health needs and start working towards meeting those needs in a collective fashion.

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