Intended for healthcare professionals


David Sanders: worked with African liberation movements and governments in primary healthcare and child health and nutrition

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 17 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5580
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. Hamburg, Germany
  1. ns{at}

Credit: Louis Reynold: International People’s Health Movement People’s Health University in Kisumu, Kenya

In 2010 in Kisumu, Kenya, David Sanders was outside enjoying a break during the International People’s Health University (IPHU), an educational and research programme held regularly at various locations around the world for health activists. A young woman approached Sanders and asked whether she could have her picture taken with him (see photo).

Sanders, of course, was happy to pose with the woman. Louis Reynolds, Sanders’s long time friend and colleague, was recruited to snap what was intended to be one picture. It turned out, though, that one picture was not going to be enough. Sanders was a living legend in African health. With his friendly smile, charming personality, and pleasant demeanour, Sanders was a virtual magnet for people, including when his picture was being taken.

“All the people in the photo were IPHU participants,” Reynolds, a retired associate professor in paediatrics at the University of Cape Town, told The BMJ. “They came from a range of African countries. During a break, the young woman second from him on his left—wearing the white top—came up and asked me to photograph them together. That was the first photo in what became a series. The guy on David’s right then came up and asked to join in. As the others became aware of this, the group grew steadily, with me taking sequential photos. I had to keep stepping back to fit them all in.”

Reynolds added that Sanders “was able to connect with young people and inspire them and just make them happy.”

Countless people around the world who admired and were inspired by Sanders are now in mourning; he had a heart attack on 30 August 2019 while on holiday in Wales.

Public health in Africa

For nearly 40 years Sanders …

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