Setting up Community Health Programmes (3rd Edition 2007)

Ted Lankester

For every doctor, nurse or other kind of health care worker thinking about working in developing countries, this book is a practical manual to read and take with you. The basis of all you need to know to set up a sustainable community health program is found in it.

The book is divided in four parts: basic principles of community based health programmes, starting a programme, setting up specific programmes, and appropriate management. As it is all about community health programmes, the community is involved in all parts of setting up a programme, which is clearly stated by the author: 'community members must not be seen simply as beneficiaries to whom we deliver a product - health care - but how they can be intimately involved in solutions, as they learn to use their skills, abilities and knowledge'.

The third edition of this popular book has been thoroughly revised and expanded, based on the latest research. It follows the newest guidelines from the World Health Organization and other authoritative sources, as is seen in e.g. using a logical framework for programme planning. In this new edition the focus on the involvement of the community, to empower them to be able to plan, manage and own their health care, is even increased in comparison with the older editions.

The part about specific health programmes has chapters with programs for the main health problems in developing countries, e.g. childhood nutrition, childhood immunizations, the main childhood illnesses (diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria), maternal health and AIDS care. A good overview of all important issues in developing such programmes are dealt with in short in a very practical and easy to understand way. All kinds of pictures and diagrams help to illustrate the information and make the book lively.

As it is a basic manual, none of the subjects are looked into fully in depth. The chapters are a good starting point and give a good overview of the main things you need to know, but to start a good health programme you need to look into the subjects in more depth. Each chapter of the book provides a list of other books, websites and resources to look for more information. In my opinion, coming as a nurse from a developed country, it's not just about reading books, but also about receiving good training in advance if one wants to create a good community based health programme, because this subject is not covered in our basic nursing and health education. This book can also be used as a summary of what training in this topic should cover.

To summarize, I believe this book is one of the things that can help change the world, as a Chinese proverb states, used by Ted Lankester himself in his introduction in the book: 'Many little things done in many little places by many little people will change the face of the world'.

Reviewed by Lianne

Lianne is a trained nurse from The Netherlands, currently preparing for mission service in a developing country