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Volunteerism Can Be ‘An Integral Part Of Universal Health Coverage’

“Expanding volunteerism is one part of the solution to help improve global health investments and ensure equitable access to health,” Matthias Schmale, under-secretary general at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, writes in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog. “But there is often vocal criticism of volunteerism, so it is important to be clear not just about the benefits but also about the contexts in which working with volunteers produces the best results,” he writes. “When done successfully, volunteerism can help a country achieve its development targets,” he states, noting, “A recent study published in the Lancet medical journal showed that health education by volunteers contributed to improvements in maternal and child health in Malawi.” Schmale provides examples of volunteer-based health programs in Afghanistan and the Philippines. “Volunteers are best motivated when they see that their contribution improves the health of their family and community, which can be an incentive more powerful than money,” he writes, concluding, “The government, private sector and civil society partners must work together to fund and promote volunteerism as an integral part of universal health coverage” (7/1).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.