Countries around the globe have signed a declaration vowing to strengthen their primary health care systems as an essential step towards achieving universal health coverage (UHC).
The “Declaration of Astana”, endorsed by 130 heads of states and ministers attending the Global Primary Health Care Conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, makes pledges in four key areas.
The countries committed to make bold political choices for health across all sectors and reaffirmed the primary role and responsibility of governments, at all levels, in promoting and protecting the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.
“We will promote multisectoral action and UHC, engaging relevant stakeholders and empowering local communities to strengthen PHC,” the countries declared.
They also made a committment to build sustainable primary health care through national legislation, contexts and priorities.
The success of primary health care, they said, would be driven by the application of knowledge and capacity building, development of human resource for health, broadening and extending access to health care services through the use of digital and other technologies and improved financing of efficient and resilient national health systems.
In addition, the countries declared to empower individuals and communities through their participation in the development and implementation of policies and plans that have an impact on health.
“We will promote health literacy and work to satisfy the expectations of individuals and communities for reliable information about health,” they said.
Furthermore, the countries declared to align stakeholder support to national policies, strategies and plans and called on all stakeholders to align with national policies, strategies and plans and to take joint actions to build stronger and sustainable PHC towards achieving UHC.
The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, the signatories had the solemn responsibility to ensure that the declaration on primary health care enables every person everywhere to exercise their fundamental right to health.
“Today, instead of health for all, we have health for some,” he noted, emphasising that health is the foundation for individuals and families to flourish, communities to prosper and nations to thrive.
“Although the world is a healthier place for children today than ever before, close to six million children die every year before their fifth birthday mostly from preventable causes, and more than 150 million are stunted,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“We as a global community can change that by bringing quality health services close to those who need them. That’s what primary health care is about.”
For the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Mr Bakytzhan Sagintayev, “Adoption of the Declaration at this global conference in Astana will set new directions for the development of primary health care as the basis of health care systems.”
He said the new Declaration reflects the obligations of countries, people, communities, health care systems and partners, to achieve healthier lives through sustainable primary health care.
The Declaration of Astana comes amid a growing global movement for greater investment in primary health care to achieve universal health coverage. Health resources have been overwhelmingly focused on single disease interventions rather than strong, comprehensive health systems – a gap highlighted by several health emergencies in recent years.
UNICEF and WHO will help governments and civil society to act on the Declaration of Astana and encourage them to back the movement.
They will also support countries in reviewing the implementation of this Declaration, in cooperation with other partners.