VSO works in over 20 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific to support disadvantaged people in fulfilling their rights to physical, mental and social wellbeing, and to offer good-quality essential health services.
Health and social services
Our international volunteers help to improve the quality and availability of health services by strengthening the capabilities of health professionals at all levels of the health system. We also work with government and non-governmental partners to improve management and delivery of services. These include mainstream services that target the whole population, such as schools and hospitals. We also work to improve specialist services that support disabled people and their specific needs – for example, speech and language therapy or teachers with sign language skills.
We support, where possible, community-based services (including primary healthcare) and outreach work in health promotion, prevention of illness and disease and front line treatment, care and support. VSO supports national volunteering in health, recognising the critical contribution made towards improving health outcomes by unpaid, community-based volunteers in many developing countries.
VSO also promotes the voice of disadvantaged users when health and social services are being planned and delivered. Our aim is to help improve legislative systems through the introduction of pro-poor health policies that enable disadvantaged children, women and men to secure their rights to these services and challenge practices which discriminate against them.
As part of our health programme we aim is to support disabled people to participate as equal members of their families, communities and societies. We do this by supporting disabled people's groups to raise awareness of issues that affect disabled people and working to improve their access to quality mainstream and special services.
An example of a volunteer role working in disability is a technical volunteer may work with the Ministry of Education. They would identify how schools can build ramp access and install disabled toilets so that disabled children in the community can go to school. Or a health volunteer may provide training to local colleagues in community-based rehabilitation services or physiotherapy techniques.
HIV and AIDS
VSO aims to improve the health of those affected and infected through strengthening prevention work and increasing the availability of treatment, care and support.
In Asia, where HIV and AIDS are not as widespread, our work identifies those living with HIV and AIDS as particularly vulnerable to poverty, stigma and social exclusion. We work to increase public understanding about the stigma they face and how this affects their ability to access the information and healthcare advice they are entitled to.
In Africa, where HIV and AIDS are widespread, we have a Regional AIDS Initiative of Southern Africa (RAISA) initiative which works to tackle the impact of HIV and AIDS. RAISA operates in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Find more about RAISA
Key position/learning papers
- Sharing skills and experiences good practices in mental health (6847KB)
- VSO and Community Health Volunteering - Position paper (summary) (307KB)
- VSO and Community Health Volunteering: Position paper (full version) (498KB)
- Valuing Health Workers (238KB)
- Brain Gain (542KB)
- Health goal strategy 2009/14 (53KB)
- National volunteering health research report (1305KB)
- Your Money or Your Life (866KB)