In an important step toward achieving universal health coverage (UHC), United Nations member states agreed to the Declaration of Astana at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care on Thursday in Astana, Kazakhstan.
By endorsing this declaration, UN states have agreed to act on four primary components: “(1) make bold political choices for health across all sectors; (2) build sustainable primary health care; (3) empower individuals and communities; and (4) align stakeholder support to national policies, strategies, and plans,” according to a press release.
So, what does this really mean for global health care?
The Declaration of Astana essentially confirms that member states will improve their primary health care systems as a means to reach UHC.
The underlying idea of UHC is that it would allow for all people to access effective and quality health services without inflicting financial hardship, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
This week’s announcement of the Declaration of Astana restores commitments made in the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata — when world leaders first committed to prioritizing primary health care.
A lot has been achieved in global health since 1978, but there remains much to do.
Countries around the🌎 today signed the Declaration of Astana, vowing to strengthen their primary health care systems 🏥 as an essential step toward achieving universal health coverage. 👁👁📸 of region’s representatives. 🌎https://t.co/L1nHprUF6B#Astana2018#HealthForAllpic.twitter.com/vCkRKwaFEo— PAHO/WHO (@pahowho) October 25, 2018
Investment in primary health care is crucial if we are to achieve the goal of UHC.
Global health efforts have historically been focused on single-disease interventions, as opposed to full and inclusive health systems, according to a press release.
But the adoption of the Declaration of Astana could help bridge that gap — and that could mean better health care and, ultimately, better health for all.
“Today, instead of health for all, we have health for some,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said in the press release. “We all have a solemn responsibility to ensure that today’s declaration on primary health care enables every person, everywhere to exercise their fundamental right to health.”
Goal 3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure health and well-being for all, but the overall commitment to global health cuts across many SDGs in one way or another.
Without access to quality health care (SDG 3: good health and well-being), a poor girl could miss school (SDG 4: quality education). If that girl misses school, she’ll fall behind (SDG 5: gender equality), and without education, she will not be able to gain good employment (SDG 6: decent work and economic growth), which means she will continue to live in poverty (SDG 1: no poverty) and live in food insecurity (SDG 2: zero hunger).
The WHO and UNICEF will work to embolden other countries to sign on, and will also follow up with committed governments to help ensure the implementation of the declaration, according to the WHO.
The cycle is vicious — but primary health care could be the catalyst in ending it for many people around the world.