News from sectors: health

31 Mar 2016

Health co-ops in Argentina bring together users and practitioners

The Federación Argentina de Entidades de Salud Solidaria, FAESS, was formed in 1999 from a collaborative agreement between the Instituto Movilizador de Fondos Cooperativos, IMFC, and the Confederation of Co-operatives COOPERAR. At that time, around 50% of Argentina’s population did not have access to healthcare. FAESS brought together users and practitioners to develop a co-operative health service model. It currently includes 66 organisations, co-operatives and mutuals. The 2001 economic crisis led to an increase in the number of worker takeovers and now various hospitals function as worker co-operatives.

FAESS provides high-quality primary care services, treatment, and health education to its members and clients at reasonable prices. It also engages in promoting co-operatives awareness and participation. It does not just provide health services, but also preserves the principles of association and solidarity among its members, both users and practitioners. With the support of local co-operatives and municipalities, it has been able to establish ten primary health care centres. These centres provide services to more than 14,000 people and have created over 100 jobs, including 60 for medical professionals. Since 2000, it had also run over 20 health campaigns to address health risks.

Wellness, health and social services tailored to community needs

Members of the Health Care Co-operatives Federation of Canada (HCCFC) provide wellness, health and social services to over a million Canadians. Because every co-op is established to meet the needs and draw on the skills of its member-owners, each is unique, responding to the precise needs of the community in which it operates.

A key concern for many Canadian individuals and communities is the lack of the support services that we need as we age. HCCFC co-ops already address several aspects of these needs with the increased recognition by governments at all levels of their capacity in key areas. Home care, mobile health services, employment support for people facing barriers to employment, and health centres are all part of their wellness, health and social services across Canada.

Communities and governments are particularly interested in programmes such as Hans Kai (Learning Group) and Choices, that help individuals and groups – whether seniors, youth, gender specific, workplace or others – to achieve and maintain optimal health. By partnering with community organisations, HCCFC member co-ops provide programmes that address the social determinants of health in a relaxed, respectful context in which the focus is on acquiring wellness skills and behaviours rather than theoretical knowledge. A University of Manitoba study, based on the Hans Kai work of NorWest Co-op in Winnipeg, is identifying statistically significant results.

Co-operative identity in the world of health care

How are co-operative principles applied to the world of healthcare? In a recent article for the International Health Co-operative Organisation, Dr Gerard Martí explains how these principles govern the operation of SCIAS co-operative in Barcelona.

The co-op belongs to the Assistència Group in Barcelona and forms part of Espriu Foundation, one of the world’s biggest health co-operatives. Dr Martí is deputy medical director of SCIAS-Barcelona Hospital and trustee of the Espriu Foundation.

His article explores how the co-op applies the Alliance’s principles on open membership, democratic control, economic participation, independence, education, co-operation among co-operatives or concern for community. His full article is available at

Photo: Dr Gerard Martí


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