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Coincidentally Similar to Alma Mater
       (Nourishing Mother)

Never knew we were living in a world,
With a mind that could be so sure.
Never knew we were living in a world,
With a mind that could be so small.
Never knew we were living in a world,
And the world is an open court.

Maybe we don't want to live in a world,
Where innocence is so short.
We'll make it up to you,
In the year 2000...
                               --Daniel Johns

Alma Ata (Alma-Ata), (locally Almaty) the capital of Kazakhstan, was also the name of a conference held there by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 1978. Of course this location was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. And in spite of the Cold War between communist countries and those embracing free enterprise, an urgent need for détente  brought us The Declaration of Alma-Ata. They established goals to be met by the year 2000, also known as part of expanded Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It is as follows:


International Conference on Primary Health Care,
Alma-Ata, USSR, 6-12 September 1978

The International Conference on Primary Health Care, meeting in Alma-Ata this twelfth day of September in the year Nineteen hundred and seventy-eight, expressing the need for urgent action by all governments, all health and development workers, and the world community to protect and promote the health of all the people of the world, hereby makes the following Declaration:

The Conference strongly reaffirms that health, which is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, is a fundamental human right and that the attainment of the highest possible level of health is a most important world-wide social goal whose realization requires the action of many other social and economic sectors in addition to the health sector.

The existing gross inequality in the health status of the people particularly between developed and developing countries as well as within countries is politically, socially and economically unacceptable and is, therefore, of common concern to all countries.

Economic and social development, based on a New International Economic Order, is of basic importance to the fullest attainment of health for all and to the reduction of the gap between the health status of the developing and developed countries. The promotion and protection of the health of the people is essential to sustained economic and social development and contributes to a better quality of life and to world peace.

The people have the right and duty to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their health care.

Governments have a responsibility for the health of their people which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures. A main social target of governments, international organizations and the whole world community in the coming decades should be the attainment by all peoples of the world by the year 2000 of a level of health that will permit them to lead a socially and economically productive life. Primary health care is the key to attaining this target as part of development in the spirit of social justice.

Primary health care is essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination. It forms an integral part both of the country's health system, of which it is the central function and main focus, and of the overall social and economic development of the community. It is the first level of contact of individuals, the family and community with the national health system bringing health care as close as possible to where people live and work, and constitutes the first element of a continuing health care process.

Primary health care:

  1. reflects and evolves from the economic conditions and sociocultural and political characteristics of the country and its communities and is based on the application of the relevant results of social, biomedical and health services research and public health experience;
  2. addresses the main health problems in the community, providing promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services accordingly;
  3. includes at least: education concerning prevailing health problems and the methods of preventing and controlling them; promotion of food supply and proper nutrition; an adequate supply of safe water and basic sanitation; maternal and child health care, including family planning; immunization against the major infectious diseases; prevention and control of locally endemic diseases; appropriate treatment of common diseases and injuries; and provision of essential drugs;
  4. involves, in addition to the health sector, all related sectors and aspects of national and community development, in particular agriculture, animal husbandry, food, industry, education, housing, public works, communications and other sectors; and demands the coordinated efforts of all those sectors;
  5. requires and promotes maximum community and individual self-reliance and participation in the planning, organization, operation and control of primary health care, making fullest use of local, national and other available resources; and to this end develops through appropriate education the ability of communities to participate;
  6. should be sustained by integrated, functional and mutually supportive referral systems, leading to the progressive improvement of comprehensive health care for all, and giving priority to those most in need;
  7. relies, at local and referral levels, on health workers, including physicians, nurses, midwives, auxiliaries and community workers as applicable, as well as traditional practitioners as needed, suitably trained socially and technically to work as a health team and to respond to the expressed health needs of the community.

All governments should formulate national policies, strategies and plans of action to launch and sustain primary health care as part of a comprehensive national health system and in coordination with other sectors. To this end, it will be necessary to exercise political will, to mobilize the country's resources and to use available external resources rationally.

All countries should cooperate in a spirit of partnership and service to ensure primary health care for all people since the attainment of health by people in any one country directly concerns and benefits every other country. In this context the joint WHO/UNICEF report on primary health care constitutes a solid basis for the further development and operation of primary health care throughout the world.

An acceptable level of health for all the people of the world by the year 2000 can be attained through a fuller and better use of the world's resources, a considerable part of which is now spent on armaments and military conflicts. A genuine policy of independence, peace, détente and disarmament could and should release additional resources that could well be devoted to peaceful aims and in particular to the acceleration of social and economic development of which primary health care, as an essential part, should be allotted its proper share.

The International Conference on Primary Health Care calls for urgent and effective national and international action to develop and implement primary health care throughout the world and particularly in developing countries in a spirit of technical cooperation and in keeping with a New International Economic Order. It urges governments, WHO and UNICEF, and other international organizations, as well as multilateral and bilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations, funding agencies, all health workers and the whole world community to support national and international commitment to primary health care and to channel increased technical and financial support to it, particularly in developing countries. The Conference calls on all the aforementioned to collaborate in introducing, developing and maintaining primary health care in accordance with the spirit and content of this Declaration.

In 1994 WHO had a review of how the MDGs were going to be met, and their prophecy looked gloomy, rather than hopeful. (Linked here). A gauge for health is typically a nation's infant mortality rate (IMR), and reducing that has been a focus with various projects like Jamkhed, (India), CBIO and BRAC (Bangladesh).

By the time of the 30th anniversary of Alma Ata, WHO's 2008 report by their director, Doctor Margaret Chan, called for new concerted efforts to correct the mistakes learned from failure to implement correct policies. It did not help that there were other crises that hit the global arena since the conference, Oil shortages, the HIV epidemic, earthquakes, floods and horrific violent wars.

Throughout the world, some PHC success stories have been implemented to try to obtain MDGs, and the pioneers in this field are Doctor John Taylor, Doctor Henry Perry, Doctor Bang, and the Sarks, Ajoles and others. They get CARE groups to teach about breastfeeding and sanitation, some of others are known as Community Based Impact Operations (CBIO), using CORE groups, especially in the Caribbean an Central and South America. There are also various operations in Kenya, Somalia, Peru, Cambodia and other similar countries where local communities have their own local trained health workers who not only help as midwives, but educate and dispense medicines and vitamins.

In Washington, June 14, 2012 an International Forum: Child Survival Call to Action was held in Georgetown, Washington, DC. Introducing the opening speaker, former First Lady and at this time, Secretary of State under Democrat President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, was Johnny Isakson, the U.S. Republican Senator from Georgia, sharing a non partisan effort with all speakers, including WHO director, Doctor Margaret Chan, and UNICEF director Anthony Lakes, a cry for everyone to continue the fight. Hillary Clinton summed it up: “We are all here today with one vision – to make sure every child everywhere lives to see his or her 5th birthday, to eliminate preventable child death in a generation.”

Since 1990 until 2010, the death rate dropped from about 20 million to about 7 million souls, so the health of the world is headed in the right direction, albeit too slowly.

Time keeps on slippin' into the future...

Feed the babies,
Who don't have enough to eat.
Shoe the children,
With no shoes on their feet.
House the people,
Livin' in the street.
Oh, oh, there's a solution...
                               --Steve Miller

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