By David B. Werner

Politics of Health

{article The Return of Health for ALL}{text}{/article}

{article Peoples Struggle Booklet}{text}{/article}

Summary: It is not the stated goals and objectives of a community program that make it vital or viable–but rather the vision, unwritten and evolving, shared by the members of the program and community as they change and evolve together. April, 1988.

The high cost of placing `national security’ before global justice. A talk by David Werner to the National Council for International Health (NCIH), 1989. As relevant today as it was in 1989. “To formulate an effective strategy for improving health and survival, we must first reexamine the causes that lead to the present high levels of sickness and death — especially among vulnerable groups. We must follow the chain of causes all the way to its source, even if its final link frames a mirror in which we begin to rediscover ourselves — our value judgments, our lifestyle, our government — through the eyes of the world’s dispossessed and hungry.”

A talk by David Werner. Seminar organized by Medicine for the People, Medical Aid for the Third World, and the International People’s Health Council. Dworp, Belgium, December 4, 1993.
To those of us committed to the dream of Health for All, in today’s troubled world one thing becomes increasingly clear: The health of people — as individuals, as communities, and as an endangered species on this fragile planet — is determined less by health services than by the relative fairness of social structures. In last analysis, the overall health of the world’s people depends on the epic struggle between love and greed. To gain a clearer understanding of the fate of Primary Health Care over the last 15 years, we therefore need to place it in that context.

An updated and somewhat condensed version of a talk given two years earlier in Dworp, Belgium (see above). Part of a presentation for the International People’s Health Council at the NGO Forum United Nations “Global Summit,” March 7, 1995.

A report by David Werner on workshops facilitated with the Western Cape Association for Persons with Disability. February—March 2007

A GRASSROOTS STRUGGLE FOR HEALTH AND RIGHTS IN RURAL MEXICO Note: This “case study” was originally prepared in 1994 by David Werner for inclusion in a book to be titled “Society and Health Case Book,” edited by Benjamin C. Amick III and Rima Rudd. Unfortunately, the book was never competed. We therefore make it accessible on this website.

Note: This document was written as a chapter for a book edited by Jon Rohde, to be titled
“Sustaining Health for All,” which was to be the third volume of series of studies on Primary
Health Care. Unfortunately, this volume was never completed or published (no doubt in part
because some of the potential authors shared the misgivings expressed in this article).

One of David Werner’s earliest and most influential papers: THE VILLAGE HEALTH WORKER — LACKEY OR LIBERATOR? First published in May, 1977.

UPDATE ON THE POLITICS OF HEALTH IN MEXICO’S SIERRA MADRE, brief situational analysis by David Werner for a booklet by the International People’s Health Council, November, 2002

COMMUNICATIONS AS IF PROPLE MATTERED: Adapting health promotion and social action to the global imbalances of the 21st Century, (in PDF format). Background Paper #5, for the People’s Health Assembly, December, 2002.

PRIMARY HEALTH CARE AND THE TEMPTATION OF EXCELLENCE. From Newsletter from the Sierra Madre # 10, April, 1975. This includes several reflections and short stories emphasizing the human side of Primary Health Care, setting the philosophical and existential framework for the following story: “What we learned from María.”

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM MARIA ..This article from “Newsletter from the Sierra Madre” # 10, April, 1975, has become one of the classics of health care literature.The story, which tells the events leading up to the tragic death a distressed village woman in Mexico, shows the importance of cultural sensitivity, and of taking the concerns of the ailing person seriously. The tragedy of María helped many of us rethink our approach to health care and become not only better health workers, but more humble and caring human beings.

PUSHING DRUGS IN A FREE MARKET ECONOMY: What the pharmaceutical, tobacco, and narcotics trade have in common Keynote address for AMSA’s 43rd Annual Convention: “A Prescription for Action: Use, Misuse & Abuse of Drugs” Miami, Florida, March 25-28, 1993.

INSURING THE NECESSARY RESOURCES FOR THE HUMAN RIGHT TO HEALTH: National and International Measures, Address by David Werner for the Global Assembly on “Advancing the Human Right to Health,” Iowa City, Iowa, April 20-22, 2001

EMPOWERMENT AND HEALTH. Talk given by David Werner
Christian Medical Commission/CCPD Joint Commission Meeting, Manila, Philippines 12-19 January 1988

PUBLIC HEALTH, POVERTY, AND EMPOWERMENT–A CHALLENGE, Convocation Address by David Werner. Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, l985

TOWARD A HEALTHIER WORLD–Methods and Actions for Change: Address by David Werner for the People’s Health Assembly, Savar, Bangladesh, December 4-8, 2000

GLOBAL ILLS AND POPULAR STRUGGLES IN ECUADOR: This article gives an account of a groundbreaking Regional Forum in Cuenca, in preparation for the December, 2000 People’s Health Assembly in Bangladesh.

BREAKING THE GRIP OF GLOBALIZATION ON POVERTY-RELATED ILL-HEALTH: Keynote address by David Werner to the NGO Forum for Health’s Conference on “Breaking the grip of Poverty on Health” Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, May 15, 2000

Health and Equity: Need for a People’s Perspective in the Quest for World Health. Presented at the WHO conference on “PHC21–Everybody’s Business, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 27-29 Nov, 1998.

Who Killed Primary Healthcare?–David Werner asks “How the ideal of ‘health for all’ was turned into the reality of worsening health for the world’s poor.” The New Internationalist, 1995.

La Guerra Antidrogas. By David Werner. (spanish) Publicado en Nexus, # 156, dic. 1990. Un reportaje sobre como los gobierrnos de los Estados Unidos y México han abusado las familias campesinas en una guerra contra las drogas que realmente los gobiernos no quieren ganar.

David Werner & Jason Weston: Hidden Costs of Free Trade: Mexico Bites the Bullet. Published by the Third World Network, Penang, Malaysia. Adapted from an article in Newsletter from the Sierra Madre.

Giving control back to the people. Article from Link (Vol. 16, No 3, June 1998), bulletin of the Asian Community Health Action Network. “Costly medicines can actually increase ill health, while people’s sense of control over their health care may still be the crucial factor in maintaining their well being.”

Village-run health programs in the Sierra Madre region of Mexico–an interview with David Werner, by Kathryn True. In Context, # 39 1997, one article in a series titled “Good Medicine.”

Disability and Rehabilitation

David Werner interview: Speaking on disability empowerment with Japanese disability activists. conducted by the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, 2009

People with disabilities in the struggle for social change. Keynote address in Bangalore, India, 1993

Disabled People in International Development. Summary of a paper on “Visit to Angola: Where Civilians are Disabled as a Strategy of ‘Low Intensity Conflict’.” 1989

Management of Long-Term Disability. Keynote address, March, 1998, Singapore

Short quotes by David Werner on Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR). 1989.


Juan’s (Mario’) story in the New Internationalist. July, 1992. The story of a young man in México who was a street boy and drug dealer. After shot through the spine and he went through rehabilitation at PROJIMO, he found new meaning in life providing therapy and making special seating for disabled kids.

Seats that Enable– Special Seating Seminar-Workshop in Culiacán, México. Facilitated by special seating specialist Jean Ann Zollars. Coordinated by PROJIMO and Mas Válidos. March 1992.

Other writings


Home Remedies. Adapted from Where There is No Doctor by David Werner.