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Media Alert: The Lancet special issue on primary health care

The Lancet

"Primary health care is in crisis... Leadership after the Astana meeting is essential to rejuvenate and revitalise all aspects of primary health care." - The Lancet special issue on primary health care marks 40 years since landmark Alma-Ata Declaration.

Forty years since the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978 [1], global leaders will convene in Astana (Kazakhstan) on 25-26 October to renew their commitment to primary health care. In the lead up to the conference, The Lancet publishes a special issue on primary health care, warning that:

"Primary health care is in crisis. It is underdeveloped in many countries, underfunded in others, and facing a severe workforce recruitment and retention challenge. Half the world's population has no access to the most essential health services. Yet 80-90% of people's health needs across their lifetime can be provided within a primary health-care framework--from maternity care and disease prevention through vaccination, to management of chronic conditions and palliative care. As populations age, and multimorbidity becomes the norm, the role of primary health-care workers becomes ever more important.

"In 1978, the Declaration of Alma-Ata was ground-breaking in uniting health leaders behind the importance of primary health care as key to delivering better health for all, and to the value of social justice, health equity, and the social determinants of health. But 40 years later, this vision has not been realised. Instead, the focus has been on individual diseases with variable results. Now the Sustainable Development Goals provide new impetus to reach universal health coverage via strengthened primary health care... The Astana Declaration marks the beginning of a better future for primary health care. Leadership after the Astana meeting is essential to rejuvenate and revitalise all aspects of primary health care."

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The special issue will be launched at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care [2], co-hosted by the Government of Kazakhstan, WHO, and UNICEF, which will bring together 1200 leaders (including heads of state; ministers of health, finance, education, and social welfare; non-governmental organisations; researchers; health practitioners; and youth leaders) to endorse the Astana Declaration.

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