2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration, the first international declaration underlining the importance of primary healthcare and the need for action by governments to protect and promote the health of all people.

To celebrate this Declaration, the World Health Organisation (WHO) wants to adopt a successor declaration at the Global Conference on Primary Healthcare taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan on 25 and 26 October 2018.

According to Secretary General of the World Medical Association (WMA), Dr Otmar Kloiber, this coincides with the ideal to globally provide Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to as many people as possible.

“Where UHC is implemented meaningfully, i.e. universal and of high quality, it often depends on a strong primary healthcare platform, ideally as a core component of a comprehensive healthcare system,” said Dr Kloiber.

According to Chairperson of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, a primary healthcare approach should be the backbone of any successful healthcare system. “As such, resources must be focused on properly developing this component of healthcare to affect an efficient, professional and equitable primary care service to all,” said Dr Grootboom.

Dr Grootboom added that SAMA agrees with the WMA that despite the challenges in South Africa, achieving the principle of UHC lies in providing a well-functioning primary healthcare service which is accessible and affordable with definable and measurable outcomes, otherwise it exists in name only.

“Because of its importance in the broader provision of healthcare in South Africa, primary healthcare must be prioritised in terms of human and material resources. However the resources allocated should be evaluated in terms of their measured outcomes,” said Dr Grootboom.

“Access to quality healthcare for all in our country is the ideal towards which we must move. Through increasing our investment in primary healthcare across South Africa, the steps to providing UHC become more defined; these are the conversations we must be having if we are serious about this aspiration,” concluded Dr Grootboom.

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