Religious assets, health outcomes and HIV/AIDS : a challenge and an opportunity for St. Paul's Anglican Church, Pietermaritzburg.
The study examines the role religious institutions play in responding to health crises in the community with particular focus on HIV/AIDS. The thesis argues for the importance of focusing on health outcomes rather than the traditional "economic" models for assessing health sector in time of AIDS crisis. Health outcomes measures: good practice, increases accountability of services, quantifies the values of interventions where traditional research data may be impractical or lacking. It even assists in determining resource allocations and help to monitor and improve standards of care. This opens the door to focus on religious institutions, where selecting and measuring outcomes could be deeply connected to a community's or institution's mission and be able to describe a specific desirable result or quality of institution's services. The role of religious institutions has not been well recognized in dealing with health issues, and in particular within the religious community itself. Religious communities have not recognized their enormous assets, which they could mobilize in an effort to create good health conditions while facing the challenges of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other diseases. The study examines the involvement of a local Anglican Church, St Paul's in health in the urban context of Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. The asset-based approach guides the study in capturing the basic notion that assets carry value and may be used to create greater value. The research findings show that the worshippers of St Paul's Anglican Church seem to have little understanding of their religious asset portfolio, which can be used effectively to improve the health conditions and health prospects of those in need in order to build healthy communities. The study argues that religious congregations and other faith-based organizations can play a vital role in local public health systems and community-based health improvements initiatives. In addition, faith communities can act as conveners and mobilizers of community residents and other faith-based groups around issues of health policy and interventions for health promotion and disease prevention (e.g. nutrition, care, VCT, etc.).