By: Mark Brender

It’s the first fish story of development: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

A friend I hadn’t seen in a while mentioned it when we were chatting the other day. We were talking about Partners In Health and what PIH does, and she remembered that line. I’ve been thinking about it since, and am now wondering: Did anyone ask if the man actually lives by the ocean or near a lake with fish in it? If his fishing line breaks and he can’t afford another one and has no boat and the water is contaminated with mercury, what then?

Silly questions, I know – but you get the point. If facilitating a lifetime of ample food and good health were as simple as teaching a skill and moving on, we’d live in a much different world.

Spotlight on Global Health 2015

Photo by Diane Walton

Participants tackle challenges in global health delivery
during the 2015 Spotlight on Global Health

The truth, of course, is that there is an ocean of complexity to the kind of work done by PIH and other international NGOs. For PIH, it isn’t always easy to explain why we think our efforts have to be rooted in an open-ended, long-term commitment, and why funds are needed for so much more than training. It’s important to talk about ideas like cost-effectiveness and sustainability—which is what we see in the fish story—in ways that actually work to benefit patients, instead of being used to limit our investments and punish those we serve for the crime of being poor. It happens all too often.

These are some of the things we’ll be talking about Aug. 27-28 at our fourth annual summer conference for leaders of our Student for Partners In Health Canada university chapters. (If you’re a student who wants to get involved with our chapters, send us a note). As part of the weekend, we’re also holding a Spotlight on Global Health on Aug. 28 that is open to the public, where we’ll dive head-first into the fish debate, among other things.

Spoiler alert for the afternoon: We always need to bring more people into the work of PIH Canada and are looking for a few more hooks that have the power to educate, entertain, and inspire. Our Spotlight attendees are going to help us find some. I hope you’ll join us.


Mark Brender is Director of Partners In Health Canada

Posted on: Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

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