Hyronimus A Fernandez
Fellow Since 1991
This profile was prepared when Hyronimus A Fernandez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Hyronimus is pioneering an alternative approach to rural health care and development work. Many of its individual components have been tried before with varying degrees of success. However, Hyronimus is making them all work, and work together. His approach emphasizes prevention rather than cure, disseminates knowledge of basic health care techniques, and reduces the demand for emergency care while making it more accessible.Hyronimus has built 164 local community health groups, or "clusters" on the island of Lembata (total population 96,000). These clusters, in which young mothers play a particularly important role, take charge of community health and child care. His clusters also provide a forum within which members can explore related issues, and the organization and resources to see related initiatives through. Some clusters have taken advantage of this to build and maintain family latrines, while others have begun to raise pigs and ducks for use as inexpensive supplementary sources of protein that do not require much land.This decentralized, self-help approach to health care serves several important purposes. Self-help care, at least for the foreseeable future, is practically the only way health care can reach more than a token minority of rural families. Perhaps even more important in the long run, the clusters empower their members, chiefly young women, by directly giving them the ability and responsibility to take charge of their own destiny.