The African Religious Health Assets Programme (ARHAP) was established in 2002 when a working group of scholars and practitioners came together and recognized the lack of evidence on the intersection of religion and public health faith - in particular in how religion influenced health and health systems in development contexts.
Africa was the first regional focus because it offered major public health challenges, a complex mix of widely practiced religious traditions, and a wide variety of actors in the field of health.
Over the last decade the collaboration and knowledge base has expanded, building on partners' different interests, as well as primary research projects in countries such as South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, the DRC, Mali, and the USA.
In 2011, ARHAP was relaunched as the International Religious Health Assets Programme (IRHAP), and the administrative hub was relocated to the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town. This move was based on continued calls for more robust evidence at the intersection of religion and public health - and an emphasis on the need for health policy and systems research.
"…what I have tried to show here is how profoundly religion has been intertwined with the public health movement over a long time, as a counter to what one might call a general lapse of memory in the field of public health about this history..." – Prof Jim Cochrane, 2008