Primary Health Care Turns 40 - Commemorating 40 years of international Primary Health Care in the Faculty of Health Sciences (1978-2018)

29 Aug 2018 - 10:45

The revolutionary idea of Primary Health Care (PHC), as expressed in the Declaration of Alma Ata at the International Conference on Primary Health Care in September 1978, is 40 years old this year.  

“The Declaration defined health as a state of complete mental, physical and social wellbeing, and not just the absence of disease or disability, and affirmed health as a fundamental human right”, says James Irlam, Head of PHC.  

International health leaders will be renewing their commitment to strengthen PHC with a new Declaration at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care from 25-26 October 2018.
Since joining the international community of nations in 1994, South Africa has adopted the philosophy of PHC as the basis of its health policy and healthcare service delivery. “This philosophy also lies at the heart of the Faculty’s vision, and hence PHC was adopted in 1994 as a lead theme for teaching, research, and social responsiveness”, says James. Addressing the principles of PHC, James stated, “The principles of PHC focus our attention on advocating for equal and equitable access to health, universal health care, health promotion, interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral collaboration, and contextualised health care that is patient-centred, acceptable, affordable and sustainable.”

In short - Health for All  

“The International Declaration on PHC represented a ground-breaking shift from treatment-centred and top-down biomedical service delivery to a participatory social model that emphasises intersectoral public health and preventative strategies to address the social determinants of health”, states James.  “The renewal of the Declaration means nothing however if we as a Faculty do not continually examine how appropriate, accessible and affordable our research, teaching and health care services are to the communities we serve.”

He goes on to say that “The PHC Directorate has therefore been planning a Faculty-wide commemoration of the 40th anniversary of PHC (PHC@40) to reaffirm our Faculty’s commitment to make the PHC lead theme real in our mission of teaching, research and health service delivery to all. The commemoration will commence with a ‘Big Ideas’ cross-disciplinary series of seminars about practices, ideas and research that contribute to “Health for All” in our context (see PHC@40 ‘Big Ideas’ programme below from 30 July to 7 September 2018) and will culminate in a Faculty workshop and Faculty Assembly towards the end of the year.”

PHC@40 ‘Big Ideas’ programme outline, 30 July to 14 September 2018

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In addition to celebrating the milestone, the Primary Health Care department also released a new logo. We asked James to give further insight into the design.   

“The multi-coloured stranded circular logo symbolises (for me at least) the necessary integration of the efforts of multiple role-players to achieve the holistic ideal of Health for All. These role-players include members of the communities we serve, members of the multi-disciplinary health team, and members of sectors other than health (such as education, social services, safety and security) that all help to achieve health as a state of total well-being, and not just the absence of disease.”
James goes on to say that “The principles of PHC are further explained in the PHC brochures for use at the PHC@40 awareness-raising and commemorative events next semester.”