Halley Harwin Stott: Founder of the Valley Trust in KwaZulu Natal.
By Stott NCH: Oxford. Privately published (by Stott NCH). 2008. 198 pp. ISBN 978-0-9561246-0-9, £10.00
Reviewed by: David Marsh,The McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health, UK DOI: 10.1177/1741143212468348
Halley was so named because, within only a few days of his birth, his father was holding him on a balcony at his home in Broughton, near Durban, when they both saw Halley’s Comet, which is visible from Earth every 76 years. His father forecast that Halley would be one of the few who would ever see it twice. His prophecy came true. His other prophecy, that his son would make his mark on the world, was also accurate, for Dr Halley Stott’s pioneering socio-medical project, The Valley Trust, transformed the lives of tens of thousands of Zulu people living in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, north-west of Durban.
His achievement was all the more remarkable in the face of swimming against the tide and the changing political sands in apartheid-riven South Africa from the 1950s onwards. Halley, a fourth-generation South African, followed in the footsteps of his ancestors by devoting his career to improving the lives of those in his local community.
After an orthodox medical training in Edinburgh, together with reading the works of Dr Robert McCarrison, Sir Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour on organic soil husbandry, Stott decided to devote his life’s work to health promotion, based on his unshakeable belief in the importance of good nutrition and healthy food grown on healthy soil. He eschewed the medical practice he had established in Durban and founded and built the Botha’s Hill Clinic on a bare hillside in 1951. This was the spearhead for the founding of The Valley Trust in 1953 – the teaching and practicing of primary medical care together with techniques of organic deep trench, terraced gardening on the poor soils and exposed hillsides of the Valley of a Thousand Hills.
The challenges of creating The Valley Trust socio-medical project under the apartheid regime did not deter him. His arguments about good soil, food and gardens, and thus improved diets and health, have probably seldom been bettered. Yet he spent half his life battling against those who did not understand the connections among soil, food and health which McCarrison so strenuously advocated.
It took years to see many of the core Valley Trust principles become incorporated into the development of international primary healthcare. There was increased interest in the organisation from the medical establishment, the government and the World Health Organization (WHO). In the early 1970s, WHO made a detailed report on the philosophy and practice of The Valley Trust and noted several key features, including the sensitive consultation and involvement of local Zulu people in the planning and execution of the project, close integration of healthcare and health promotion, essential nutrition education and a multi-sectoral approach (1). WHO sponsored a hugely successful international conference on primary healthcare in 1978 at Alma Ata, and from this came the Alma Ata Declaration, which called on the nations of the world to ‘make primary health care an integral part of each country’s health system of which it is the central function and main focus of the overall social and economic development in the community’ (2). There were several radical ideas in this declaration, which had huge political ramifications regarding correctable factors contributing to ill health worldwide, the cost-effective delivery of care, prevention and health promotion using community resources more than hospitals.
The Valley Trust’s work promoted this integrated primary health-care focus in microcosm many years earlier in a ground-breaking and innovative way. The author provides a fascinating commentary on the ongoing political battles after Alma Ata to establish comprehensive primary healthcare worldwide and many thought-provoking questions are raised relating to health for all and the vested interests of the lucrative disease industry. In addition to the political outline, the book combines social anthropology, medical history and biography. Fully referenced, this is an important book, especially for those interested in nutrition and the vital connections among health in soil, plants, environment and living creatures, as well as those with broader interest in primary healthcare and its funding. Our thanks are due to Halley Stott’s family and in particular to Nigel, Halley Stott’s elder son, for such a well-written and unique book.
1. Nutrition and Health 00(0) 1-2 The Author(s) 2012 Reprints and permission: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.navnah.sagepub.com