The evolving School of Public Health, Equity and Action (SOPHEA) is dedicated to the education of a diverse group of researchers, activists, community builders, community health and public health professionals through a process inseparably linked to justice, equity, culture, community health interventions, and development, through teaching learning programs, research, and advocacy. This knowledge, acquired through community activities, and participation, lends itself to the improvement of health, respecting human rights and social justice through addressing in-equity, disease and disability. The history and culture of advocacy and community empowerment runs deep in SOCHARA. Over the 25 years of work it has advocated and implemented research, education and a host of other important initiatives in community health. Realizing that public health must rest and grow on grounded evidence together with sustained community participation, the next steps are being taken.
SOPHEA will help public health professionals understand public health and the rigors of research, innovative techniques and methods to mediate the health concerns of communities, be involved with advocacy and policy engagements with governments, build leaders for community mobilization, analyze and support health and social movements as part of a larger collective journey towards health for all. It is the case that among the SOCHARA members are not just health oriented doctors but also social scientists, epidemiologists, researchers who are advocates for health rights. They help in creating new policy and making existing policy more effective through their work within the politics of engagement with communities, governments and international bodies. Many of our members have helped shape health policies; initiated health care reforms; enhanced community participation; promoted social justice; and inspired action on drug policies, environment, water and sanitation.
The space, support, guidance and facilitation of self-study and short term linkages provided by CHC had evolved into a formal Fellowship Programme in 2003. The Community Health Fellowship Programme with its two phases–the Community Health Internship cum Fellowship Scheme (CHFS 2003-07) and the Community Health Learning Programme (CHLP 2008-2011) has evolved as a significant training programme by civil society in strengthening the capacity of young graduates, post-graduates and activists in community health and public health.
The Community Health Fellowship Programme by SOCHARA in Madhya Pradesh since 2009 also aims to train young professionals in community capacity building for health; in critically engaging with and strengthening the public health system from below and in functioning as an inter-phase between the community and the health system. Madhya Pradesh has some of the worst health indicators in the country, which was a reason among others for SOCHARA to build on experience in areas of greater need.