In 2001, Dr José Carlos Guisado took over the presidency of the International Health Co-operatives Organisation (IHCO). He had already been serving as Vice-President and President of the European region since the December of the previous year. At the assembly held by the organisation on 13 October 2001 in Seoul, Japan’s Shoji Kato, who had been the President since it was first founded, handed over the baton to Dr Guisado.
The IHCO had been established in November 1996 as a sectoral branch of the International Co-operative Alliance, the umbrella organisation for the co-operative movement. Three institutions dedicated to the co-operative health sector, the Espriu Foundation in Spain, Unimed in Brazil, and the Japanese Health Co-operatives Association, took the initiative in setting up a forum that would bring together co-operatives of similar characteristics to share their experiences, with each learning from the others.
Consolidation of the IHCO
Over the course of all his years as President of the IHCO, Dr Guisado dedicated his full efforts to extending and promoting the co-operative health model. He worked tirelessly to this end, travelling to countless countries and covering thousands of kilometres to take part in conferences and meetings, at all times with the aim of conveying the social benefits of health co-operatives, and collaborating in their establishment wherever he felt that the model could improve the health and well-being of the population.
The growth and consolidation of the IHCO as one of the most active sectoral organisations within the co-operative movement counts as one of his main successes.
During his four terms as President, various co-operatives dedicated to the health sector in such countries as Argentina, Colombia, Canada, Poland, Brazil, Italy and Australia joined the IHCO.
A staunch proponent of inter-cooperation, he emphasised the role of health co-operatives within the context of the International Co-operative Alliance, working to find common ground with other sectors, and establishing partnership agreements such as the one that the IHCO has had in place since 2013 with the international industrial and service co-operatives organisation, CICOPA.
His global vision ensured that he gave voice to health co-operatives at such various platforms as the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organisation and the European Parliament, along with public authorities and national governments. He was recently involved in the promotion of the co-operative health sector in Colombia and had been in contact with the Ministry of Health in the country.
His initiative also gave rise to the staging of a Conference in Washington focused on the promotion of health co-operatives, at the time when President Barack Obama was launching the health reform known as Obamacare.
With his untiring dedication, he was the figure behind what he himself called the “explosion of health co-operatives”, referring to the interest shown in the co-operative health model over recent years by numerous health systems, both public and private.