'Religious groups should be used in promoting healthcare' - Experts say

The experts stated that religious groups are an under-used health resource that could help achieve universal healthcare and accelerate the medical response to disease outbreaks.

Health experts have said religious groups could be a most useful tool in promoting healthcare and fighting disease outbreak.

According to a study published in the Lancet medical journal, faith-based organizations such as the Islamic Relief or the Salvation Army are the only health providers in some regions and the medical community should build on their experience, reach and influence to save lives.

Study author, Edward Mills also said in a statement that "religious groups are major players in the delivery of healthcare, particularly in hard-to-reach and rural areas that are not adequately served by government,"

The study further said during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa faith groups were key mediators, persuading communities to drop their custom of embracing the dead, and providing vital medical services and support.

They also provide support with anti-malaria campaigns, maternal health and HIV services.

Furthermore, in Sierra Leone, Muslim and Christian leaders led the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) campaign which increased immunization rates in children to 75% from 6%.

To this end, Mills called on the general medical community to recognize the magnitude of services offered (by faith-based groups) and partner or support (them) to provide long-standing improvements in health.

World leaders are due to adopt new development targets, such as ending poverty, reducing child mortality and tackling climate change later this year to replace eight expiring U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


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