End of year Q&A: Carlos Zarco, president, International Health Cooperative Organisation

The sector faces challenges over the aftermath of Covid-19, health inequality, mental health and an ageing population

How has the last year been for IHCO? 

The year 2023 concluded on a high with a remarkable General Assembly that saw the participation of delegates from four different continents. This crucial meeting showcased experiences from different parts of the world, demonstrating health co-operatives’ consolidation as successful companies. It also affirmed that health co-operatives have the potential to drive improvements within health systems around the globe. Witnessing the collective commitment and passion from representatives reaffirmed our belief in the transformative power of co-operative healthcare models. 

The year unfolded with remarkable experiences. I enjoyed visiting various health co-operatives in different countries, including Brazil, Panama, Chile, Bulgaria, and Greece. These visits were enlightening, providing me with first-hand experience of the co-operatives’ adaptability, inclusiveness, and ability to meet the needs of their communities.

Throughout 2023, we remained dedicated to increasing the visibility of health co-operatives. Our efforts in raising public awareness have played a significant role in recognising the co-operatives’ crucial role in working towards Universal Health Coverage, an essential objective of the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

The International Health Cooperative Organisation is thriving and expanding its reach. A significant milestone in our growth was achieved with the enrolment of Sermecoop, a Chilean co-operative, as our 20th member organisation. This new addition to our network is a testament to the expansion and consolidation of IHCO and the broader health co-operative movement. The integration of Sermecoop not only amplifies our collective expertise but also reinforces our commitment to building a global network of health co-operatives.

 What are your hopes for the future?

 As we step into 2024, we face a spectrum of challenges. The persistent effects of the global pandemic continue to significantly strain healthcare systems worldwide, further worsening existing health disparities and resource gaps. There is an urgent need to alleviate the mental health effects of prolonged crises and tackle the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases. Moreover, with an ageing population, healthcare resources will be stretched thin. Additionally, the unpredictable geopolitical landscape and environmental crises pose additional hurdles, jeopardising the stability and accessibility of healthcare infrastructure.

Nevertheless, our commitment to fulfilling our mission remains unwavering. We will strive to increase awareness of health co-operatives and their positive influence on healthcare systems and the wider community. By promoting inter-cooperation, we aim to foster mutually beneficial relationships among our members, encouraging collaboration and collective growth.

As we look ahead to the next year, we are committed to maintaining our status as a knowledge hub for health co-operatives. We aim to gather, generate, and disseminate information to give our members and the wider community valuable insights into all aspects of health co-operatives. We understand the importance of knowledge sharing in driving positive change, and we are dedicated to facilitating this process to help improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

As part of our mission, we will also support our member organisations in their advocacy and lobbying actions. We understand the importance of amplifying their voices and driving positive policy changes at national and local levels.

Happy New Year 2024!

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