Popular Education in Health (EPES) started in 1982 in Santiago, Chile, as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile’s diaconate efforts to promote the organization and community participation in public health. By 1983, EPES had expanded to include the southern cities of Concepción, Penco, Talcahuano and Tomé. In 2001 EPES obtained its non-profit status as a Chilean non-profit foundation. Over more than twenty-five years, EPES has grown from a small, emergency-response team to a leader of systematic community education and mobilization to improve health services and awareness. The EPES team of educators and trainers work in some of the poorest urban, semi-urban, and rural communities to organize the economic, political, and socially disenfranchised and marginalized (who are primarily women), persons living with HIV/AIDS and victims of family violence. EPES seeks to inform and promote a more dignified life to the poorest of the poor through community training and guidance. EPES works in advocacy and support for community health groups to seek enforcement of their rights, and works with local churches to provide health information to the public at large. Further information can be found at www.epes.cl.
EPES’ work takes place through grassroots groups of health promoters that they train; participants go on to train other health promoters in new health groups. Some of the dozens of grassroots health groups which EPES originally trained and later networks with have been working for more than 20 years, while other health groups are newly formed. EPES also does extensive training with public health workers, in church communities, and in broader municipal public spaces in the promotion of citizen participation in public health issues. EPES prioritizes the development of collective capabilities and leadership in women’s health issues from a gender perspective, and the promotion of rights in women’s health in matters ranging from preventive women’s health to campaigns against domestic violence.
EPES’ work in education and grassroots advocacy has been shared with other organizations in Latin America and in Africa. A long-time dream of EPES came true in early 2010 with the inauguration of its International Training Course in Popular Health. For two weeks in Santiago and Concepción, 20 participants from eight countries experienced first-hand the methodologies that EPES has pioneered. The second such course will take place in January 2011 and will include an extensive analysis of the EPES work in response to the February 2010 earthquake that greatly affected the communities where they work in southern Chile -- to learn about EPES emergency and reconstruction work after the quake, see their video pieces from the Global Ministries Chile Earthquake page or read about it by clicking here.
|Update: September 2013|
“What a busy year 2013 has been! Take a look at the most recent EPES Update to learn more, but this past January, EPES graduated its 80th participant in the International Training Course on Popular Health. It seems like only yesterday that the EPES International Training School — developed in order to spread the methods and philosophy of EPES throughout and beyond Chile — was only a great idea. But 2013 marked the fourth year of this innovative activity.
In addition, EPES is hard at work planning its fifth International Training Course — which will take place in Kenya in early 2014. Who could have thought that when the first course was being developed that EPES would soon be crossing borders and physically spreading its methods on a whole new continent?!”
Along with this global endeavor, EPES continues its ongoing work and is beginning new activities in Chile. One of the new initiatives should be of interest to EPES North American friends since it addresses a critical public health issue that we are well aware of in our communities-- obesity. Did you know that as of this year, Chile has the 9th highest obesity rate among all countries in the world, according to the World Health Organization? To tackle this emerging obesity epidemic in the communities it partners with, EPES is implementing a nutrition and cooking workshop for women within the larger framework of gender and society. Given that obesity has continued to rise in other countries and communities despite efforts to counter it, we are very anxious to see if this approach proves more fruitful.
As you can see from the Update, EPES is constantly developing new ways to promote health and dignity in Chile and the world in an ever-changing environment. With the generous support of AHA supporters, this is possible!