10 Aug 2020 - by A4ID

Lawyers Help to Preserve Important Educational Resources for Healthcare Professionals

A4ID’s Legal Partner, Dechert, has helped to ensure the longevity of the knowledge and resources accumulated by the charity, Health Books International, which faced closure due to financial challenges.

The lawyers’ vital pro bono legal assistance to Health Books International, enabled it to successfully merge with Practical Action Publishing (the specialist publishing arm of the global change-making organisation, Practical Action – another of A4ID’s Development Partners).

Healthcare professionals in low income countries do not always have access to up-to-date health and medical information to help them diagnose and treat their patients. Health Books International have developed educational healthcare information and practical tools for individuals, health workers and communities in developing countries with the aim to improve the health of resource-poor communities around the world. The charity accumulated a substantial quantity of useful resources over its 53-year history. However, in 2018, Health Books International ran into financial difficulty following an accelerating decline in income, despite a five-year restructuring process. Health Books International was forced to issue notices of employment termination to its staff. The organisation approached A4ID for legal assistance to ensure they complied with their Articles of Association and any other legal requirements of the organisation’s closure process.

At the same time, Health Books International contacted Practical Action Publishing, to discuss the possibility of a merger. The addition of an established health list to Practical Action Publishing’s collection of international development resources seemed to be a perfect fit, with their similar mission to put affordable, practical knowledge into the hands of people who need it most, whatever their location, in a language and format that suits them best. By diversifying and expanding the range of subjects and formats accumulated over almost 50 years, and by bringing the two organisations together, the hope was to make important knowledge more accessible for communities around the world.

Health Books International requested legal advice on the potential structures of a merged organisation and the legal processes and timeframe required to complete the merger. Once the merger was agreed, the charity needed additional legal support to ensure the educational material that it had accumulated would be protected in any insolvency process.

Despite the tight timeframes, Dechert agreed to take on the pro bono assistance requested. Within a week Dechert’s lawyers clarified exactly what needed to be done to terminate the organisation’s operations. Thereafter, the legal team produced a merger document, which was signed by both Health Books International and Practical Action Publishing. Health Books International told A4ID that this document was very useful because it enabled them to fill in any gaps and clarified what needed to be done to complete the process. As a result of the merger, Health Books International’s website and branding has been retained and their resources, notably its large stock of health books, are being published and globally distributed by Practical Action Publishing with the continued ethos of improving accessibility for the resource-poor around the world.

“The advice we received from Dechert has allowed our charity’s work to live on, where it otherwise would not have” – John Palmer, Health Books International

 

Health Books International told A4ID that the advice provided by Dechert vastly improved their confidence in moving forward with the merger. The organisation emphasised that the lawyers “went above and beyond” and their advice was “very straightforward, relevant, highly comprehensive and incredibly helpful overall”. Health Books International would not have been able to afford any legal advice were it not for A4ID and Dechert, which could have been seriously detrimental to preserving their work.

Despite the closure of Health Books International’s operations, the pro bono legal assistance that the organisation received has ensured that its healthcare resources are still being circulated and used to educate communities on a variety of health matters in resource-poor regions. Practical Action Publishing’s distribution of these important resources has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many other forms of medical support and supplies have been disrupted. The legal assistance that A4ID brokered for Health Books International has meant that despite financial difficulties, the organisation was able to find a way, with excellent legal support, to continue their work in a new form and preserve its cause. The impact of this valuable pro bono work will contribute towards the achievement of SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being and SDG 4 – Quality Education.

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