Abstract in English


The qualities of religious health care in Sub-Saharan Africa


Anthropologue, IRD, Institut d'Étude Africaines, Université de Provence

Health care provision by Christian missions is generally considered to offer better quality services than public sector structures. Their health care personnel's adherence to religious values and the specific organisation of missionary health structures seem able to encourage the virtues of compassion and empathy towards the users of such health care facilities, attitudes considered as guarantees of a high standard of service. However, the favourable opinions widely shared about denominational health facilities don not always correspond to reality. Such views relate largely to structures belonging to powerful religious organisations, with substantial aid at their disposal enabling them to deliver high-quality services. Nevertheless even these organisations still have to deal with tension between the relative priority accorded to the medical or the religious in the supply of health care. Sometimes they have to decree their own rules of operation, even if it means delivering limited services at variance with national and international directives. It is advisable not to underestimate the importance of adherence to Christian religious values as an explanatory factor of the quality offered, and to place the supply of denominational health care in the global context of the structure of health service provision in Africa. This article reports on the specific focus on the contribution of Christian missions to health care delivery in Africa. But, further than this, it is intended also as a contribution to wider reflection on the notion of "quality of care" that is much debated in discussions on public health.

Key-words : Africa - health systems - health care quality - Christian missions.