The inspiration for Community Health Services comes from Colonel Dr. Harry John Andrews, V.C, M.B.E, I.M.S who was the founder of Salvation Army Medical Services in 1895, which later became the Salvation Army Catherine Booth Hospital, Nagercoil.
Dr Andrew’s had no medical qualification at that time but his vision and compassion had won him the love of people. He would visit plague and cholera affected areas meeting people in their homes and advising them to boil water before drinking, take medicine and trust in God. He shared the message of cleanliness and burnt the rubbish in the backyards of homes. Little did he realise he was sowing the seed of the present Community Health and Development Service.
The hospital’s Public Health department was rendering Community Health Services until 1986. During that year the Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI) supported to establish a Community Based Primary Health project covering two villages with a combined population of 10,000 people.
By 1993 with the initiatives of Mr. G. Benjamin Dhaya, new innovative projects were started in the Community Health department. Due to the phenomenal growth, in 2005, Community Health and Development Programme (CHDP) became an independent, autonomous and full-fledged unit from the hospital with a management board.
At present the Salvation Army Community Health and Development Program (CHDP) is an independent, autonomous and full-fledged institution of India South Eastern Territory. It is an ISO 9001-2008 certified institution and with involvement it deals with Community Health, Development, Research, Capacity building and Spiritual care. It has its administrative office at The Salvation Army Catherine Booth Hospital Campus, Nagercoil and it has been rendering services nearly in 300 villages in Kanayakumari and Tirunelveli Districts. The major programs implemented are Integrated Community Empowerment Program and Integrated Health Initiative focusing on health and development needs of the target communities.
The inhabitants in the target areas are mostly from Dalits community. They are previously known as ‘Untouchables’, now they have adoptad the term ‘Dalit’ as a name for themselves. Dalit refers the scheduled caste people and it does not denote any class; Most of the target area dwellers are farmers and daily laborer, working as agricultural labors and coolies. These target dwellers due to their conversion into Christianity, the government has denied their reservation benefits and privileges in the government.