Sillery, Québec University:
Laval UniversityAward: IDRC
Doctoral Research Award Purpose:
To help Canadian graduate students undertake their thesis researchin the field of international development
PhD Thesis topic:
Attaining health equity – evaluating the Bamako Initiative in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso, Africa
(July 2003-Febuary 2004)Amount of award:
up to $20,000
“After a few years in the field implementing a project, you don’t really know how it’s going – whether it’s working well or not. That’s where evaluation comesin. The international development milieu and academia are two different worlds and they don’t talk to each other very much. There’s a real gap between them. One of my intentions in returning to university is to try to organize a bridge between these two worlds. I am trying not to lose contact with the field, with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). This is why I am always trying to do some research and academic work in connection with NGOs. I try to organize my work interms of how will it contribute to social change not how many papers I am able to publish.”
— Valéry Ridde
Valéry Ridde describes himself as a social activist. Born in Burgundy, France, he has a master’s degrees in management from the Universities of Lyon and Dijon. He has spent the past decade in the hotspots of the world. Postings with French nongovernmental organizations have included Haiti, Iraq, Gaza, Palestine, East Timor, Pakistan, andAfghanistan. He has also been involved in programs in Mali, Niger, Brazil, and Vietnam.
Recent trips included a three-week mission last year to Baghdad and five Iraqi provinces to evaluate health needs in the devastated country. He saw hospitals and health centres that had been destroyed, burned, and pillaged. He subsequently wrote an editorial in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health criticizing the humanitarian aid process in Iraq and the part played by the US and some American and British NGOs. He pleaded for a participatory approach.
A few months earlier, following an evaluation in Afghanistan, he and a colleague denounced the process being used toreconstruct the health system there in an article in The Lancet. The Laval University paper has based editorials on his views, and a journal in France has published an article about him.
A soccer enthusiast in his youth, Mr. Ridde trained and worked initially in sports management and then public management. But after field postings as program manager in developing countries with Enfants du Monde Droits de l’Homme, he decided to change his career focus to community health. He went on to work for some years with Aide Médicale Internationale.
Much of the work involved emergency aid, as French NGOs have a long history in this area. In 1999, he decided that he needed more university training. He was keen to evaluate programs. Cutbacks in research budgets in France prompted him to look elsewhere, and he decided to come to Canada.
“The academic world in France is very difficult towork in,” he says. “In Europe there is not a lot of public health training. Canada has a good reputation for this and Québec is a good place for me to study because people speak French!”
Now a landed immigrant, helives in Sillery, Québec. He gained a master’s degree in community health from Laval in 2001 and hopes to complete his PhD this year. He recently returned to Canada after seven months of research in Burkina Faso. His wife, who works in educationand evaluation, accompanied him to Africa.
Mr. Ridde found that the health system in Burkina, based on the Bamako Initiative, were “a little bit effective but not at all equitable.” The Bamako Initiative, proposed by theWorld Health Organization and UNICEF
in 1987 at the African health ministers’ annual meeting in Mali, sought to ensure access to affordable essential health services for the majority of the population and to improve the quality of primary health care,with emphasis on maternal and child health. The initiative has been implemented in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and has received political support from African leaders and aid donors since its inception.
“But today, health policy in Burkina Faso seems more effective than equitable,” Mr. Ridde points out. “Too few people from the government, as well as from the aid community, are aware that access to health care is difficult for the poorest. This is mostly due to the fact that we ask them to pay fees when they use the health service – something that is forbidden in Canada – and because of other health inequalities.”
However, he points out that there are inequities in Québec too. “I have a paper on this that will soon be published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health,” he says. “Everywhere in the world there are some inequalities, and it is clear that in Québec – even though this province has the most progressive public policies in Canada – there are many problems. I have written a kind of critique of the new public health program. The planners didn’t pay enough attention to this major problem.”
Mr. Ridde already does some university lecturing and says he enjoys “getting the message to young students.” But he wants to maintain his contact with NGOs and would like to marry fieldwork with academia and public policy.
For more information or to interview Valéry Ridde, please contact IDRC's information officer: email@example.com (613) 236-6163 ext. 2101.