International conference on primary health care and health systems in Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, in collaboration with development partners and the Government of Burkina Faso, hosted a major conference 28-30 April in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to renew commitment to primary health care as the means to achieve improvements in health outcomes for the people of Africa.

The conference was held to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care (PHC) and the 60th anniversary of WHO, aimed to revitalize primary health care and health systems development in countries in the African Region in order to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"Good health is not a gift or commodity to be rationed on ability to pay. The wealth of a nation should not determine the health of a people. Quality, affordable care for people is a human right, a matter of basic fairness," said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, in a statement.

"The main problem is not just poverty", Dr. Sambo said, "The inability of populations to afford and access quality health care is blatant injustice... and there is no better strategy to employ than primary health care to fight injustice in the health sector."

More than 500 participants from within and outside Africa took part in the conference, which was opened by the Head of State of Burkina Faso, President Blaise Compare.

Participants included Ministers of Health, policy and decision-makers and managers of health services; researchers, academicians, and social anthropologists; representatives of training institutions and ministries operating in the area of health (e.g. education and finance ministries); and representatives of international organizations, civil society, youth and women's organizations and the private sector, among others.

Topics discussed at the plenary and parallel sessions of the Conference included Human Resources for Health; health financing and essential medicines and technologies; governance, decentralization, management and delivery of essential and quality health services; public–private partnership for health management and multi-sectoral collaboration for health development.

Presenting at the event, GHWA Executive Director, Dr Francis Omaswa, underlined how health workers are the cornerstone and drivers for primary health care and that urgent increase in their numbers is imperative for strengthening health systems for the future.

Concluding the conference, delegates adopted a declaration that calls on African states to respect a promise made earlier to allocate 15 percent of their budgets to the health sector.

Necessary mechanisms should be set up to make essential medicines, products, technology and infrastructure more readily available and accessible, the conference said.