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Short reflection on the workshop ‘40 years of Alma Ata: Translating ‘’health for all’’ into the present and the future’ (Geneva, 18 May)

By Sameera Hussain
on May 25, 2018

Last week, in the run-up to the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA), the Geneva Global Health Hub (G2H2) organized an excellent workshop on “40 years of the Alma-Ata: Translating Health for All into the Present and Future”, bringing together academics and civil society organizations from around the world.  We can only hope that the ideas discussed in the workshop (and summarized here) will materialise in the near future, as well as inspire many participants at the WHA in the years to come.

The opening plenary began with a reading by panel members of the Alma Ata Declaration (1978), and was powerful and inspiring. Unfortunately, it also felt more than a bit sad, almost two decades beyond the 2000 deadline for realizing ‘Health for All’. Eighteen years into the 2000s, inequities in health have risen, despite the better health outcomes many analyses report. The planet is not in very good shape either.

Calling for a revival of the vision of the Alma Ata declaration (some call it “Alma Ata 2.0”), participants focused on several key areas in follow-up sessions:

  • Going beyond the health sector: addressing root causes and determinants of health inequity
  • Cooperation and solidarity beyond charity: health and social justice as a human rights and a global public health obligation
  • Primary health care compared with Universal Health Coverage
  • Communities: from objects to full participation and ownership

An important reminder for those of us working in the civil society space was the issue of its decline in many parts of the world.

All in all, workshop participants reckoned realising the vision of Alma Ata and Health for All is ‘more urgent than ever’. That’s probably an understatement.

An interesting take home message from the day’s proceedings was a comment from the People’s Health Movement (PHM)—interesting, at least for me—“Is UHC as it is conceived really PHC?”, noting that UHC, referring to Universal Health Coverage rather than Universal Health Care, reflects an economic and market-driven language that is counter to the move toward finally realizing the (comprehensive) Primary Health Care vision of the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978.

The conspiracy theorists among us don’t think that’s a coincidence.


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