Rotarians are part of a global network and are, not surprisingly, committed to promoting global health.  Three of Rotary’s six focus areas: (1) Disease prevention and treatment; (2) water and sanitation; and (3) maternal and child health contribute to global health – although you could also make an argument (and I would) that the remaining three focus areas of (4) education and literacy; (5) economic and community development, and (6) peace and conflict prevention/resolution are also important for global health.  

The Rotary Foundation has funded almost 2,000 health projects to date in communities around the world.  Rotary’s signature initiative, and one tantalizingly close to completion, is polio eradication.  Rotary has learned a great deal from its polio efforts over the years – including the importance of partnerships not just with clubs but with local and international non-governmental organizations, civil society, governments, multilateral organizations and the media.

Rotary Action Groups (RAGs) are one way that Rotarians organize themselves to respond to specific challenges, health-related and otherwise. Fifteen of 26 RAGs focus directly on disease prevention and treatment.  Some of these action groups have been around for a very long time while others, such as Addiction Prevention and Mental Health Initiatives are rather new.

  • Rotarians for Family Health and AIDS Prevention helps clubs and districts plan and implement large scale disease prevention and treatment projects.
  • Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotarian Action Group provides information and support to Rotarians on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Rotarian Action Group for Blindness Prevention helps prevent blindness and promotes eye health and vision worldwide.
  • Global Network for Blood Donation focuses on blood donation projects
  • Rotarian Action Group of Dental Volunteers provide humanitarian dental service throughout the world
  • Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes provides service through a strong commitment to education, identification, and treatment of diabetes, especially among children in developing countries.
  • Health Education and Wellness Rotarian Action Group improves world health thorough health promotion, education, and disease prevention
  • Rotarian Action Group for the Alleviation of Hunger and Malnutrition enhances and sustains local food security and provides nutritious food to the hungry.
  • Rotarians for Hearing help children and adults with hearing loss.
  • Rotarians Eliminating Malaria coordinate efforts to control malaria.
  • Rotarian Action Group for Multiple Sclerosis Awareness improves the lives of People with MS (PwMS).
  • Food Plant Solutions Rotarian Action Group helps people, particularly in developing countries, learn about and grow the best local foods to match their nutritional needs as a sustainable solution for hunger and malnutrition.
  • Rotarian Action Group for Polio Survivors and Associates improves the health and well-being of polio survivors.
  • Rotarian Action Group for Addiction Prevention aims to organize an international group of Rotarian specialists and activists in prevention of substance abuse and addiction.
  • Rotarian Action Group for Mental Health Initiatives aims to build an association of Rotarians who are passionate and have expertise in mental health treatment.

If you are interested in learning more about what Rotary is or does, the global health programs it supports is a great place to start.  The RAGS can be a useful resource regardless for anyone.  Take a look at the Rotary Disease Prevention and Treatment Blog which features  efforts to fix cleft lips and palates, organize Family Health Days, prevent and treat chronic disease (e.g, diabetes) and infectious disease (e,g, malaria) and promote access to mental health care.   


Have questions, comments, or ideas about Rotary’s global health engagement? Contact me directly or tweet at @bryan_schaaf. Thanks!