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Collecting 30 Years of Stories, Achievements, Challenges & Changes

IntraHealth and I are approximately the same age. Well, let’s just say we were both born in the seventies anyway. Therefore, it seemed fitting when I was charged with telling IntraHealth’s 30th anniversary story through the medium of an interactive organizational timeline (available on the website soon).

Occasionally, we should all take a long, deliberate look back in order to understand the trajectory of our lives, to learn from the past and build on our achievements. But how do you share a thirty year story? If it were my own, I would start with snap shots and stories. I would describe the events and people that molded me. I’d share the joyous moments and the difficult ones. I would make a scrapbook to pass on and hope that while it may not convey the totality of my experiences that it would at least convey the spirit.

How to begin is clear. IntraHealth was born in 1979 as INTRAH, the Program for International Training in Health, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. From the beginning, INTRAH’s focus was on health workers and their role in improving the health of vulnerable women and their families. Our first projects focused on training health workers in family planning in developing countries, approached from the perspective of women’s health rather than population control. But how did we get from there to here?

Acting as the curator of IntraHealth’s 30th anniversary timeline, our scrapbook if you will, is a joy and a challenge. As any great scrapbooker would do, I am over-collecting in search of the gems that when strung together, convey IntraHealth’s spirit. I am collecting documents, images, videos and artifacts. I am collecting stories from staff and associates, from anyone IntraHealth has touched or been touched by. The collecting is fun; whittling them down is grueling.

Some events and people in our history may naturally rise to the top:

  • In 1979 INTRAH was awarded its first project by USAID (Family Planning Training for Paramedical, Auxiliary and Community Personnel) working with front line health workers in Africa and the Near East to improve family planning services ;
  • Pape Gaye, our current CEO, joined IntraHealth in 1986;
  • The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo which called for a global commitment to treating reproductive health as an important and interconnected aspect of broader social and economic development;
  • INTRAH’s pioneering work in the 80’s and 90’s with developing global family planning clinical guidelines, working with countries to link pre-service and in-service training strategies and pioneering the application of the Performance Improvement approach in low resource health care settings to improve health worker performance and service quality;
  • IntraHealth’s transformation into an independent non-profit in 2003;
  • IntraHealth’s global projects (including PRIME, PRIME II, The Capacity Project and CapacityPlus);
  • The launch of the Open Initiative in 2009.

A good scrapbook, however, should not only portray the watershed moments and key leaders. It is also the day to day events and voices that make IntraHealth unique, that tell the full story. Our staff and partners do amazing things every day, for example—establishing a mothers support group in Ethiopia for pregnant and post-partum HIV positive women, developing a peer support network in rural Honduras for auxiliary nurses, involving men in the handling of obstetric emergencies in India or working with partners to develop a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) to provide much needed data for key health workforce decision making.

Whatever your connection may be to IntraHealth, or to global health, we want to hear from you. Use the Comments section to share what you consider the key global health events from the last 30 years or your connection to and memories of IntraHealth. You are also welcome to email me at cfarrell AT