40 years ago the World Health Organization’s Alma-Ata Declaration (signed 12 September 1978) presented a radical vision of comprehensive primary health care, that viewed health services as part of a new international economic order that would benefit all nations, that would encourage democratic participation and intersectoral action for health, and help improve social and environmental contexts that create disease and risks for disease.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration, the Southgate Institute organised three important policy events to stimulate discussion on promoting a comprehensive PHC approach in Australia and to revive the comprehensive vision of PHC set out in the Declaration.
On 12 September 2018 Southgate held a breakfast meeting in Australian Parliament House sponsored by Catherine King MP, which was attended by 60 senior public servants, NGO CEOs and members of Parliament. Professor Fran Baum facilitated the discussion between panel members: Professor David Sanders from University of Western Cape, South Africa, Ms Jennifer Doggett from Australian Health Reform Alliance, Ms Donna Ah Chee from Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and Dr Toby Freeman from the Southgate Institute. The panel discussed policy issues in relation to comprehensive PHC in Australia, and the challenges and opportunities for reviving a comprehensive approach.
Following the Parliament House breakfast meeting, Southgate held a symposium at ANU to present key findings and themes from its PHC research projects providing an opportunity to engage with a broader range of PHC stakeholders including Federal and State Departments of Health, peak bodies and associations, PHNs and international PHC experts. This event was video recorded and the recording will be made available on the Southgate website by the end of September. A repeated similar symposium but with a South Australian flavour was held in Adelaide on 17 September and opened by Minister Stephen Wade, SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Both events were booked out and very well received with positive feedback from participants.
Importantly, the Southgate Institute launched its 10 Point Plan for Reform of Primary Health Care in Australia at these events, based on key findings from 15 years of Southgate research into PHC in Australia. The 10 Point Plan and other policy briefs from Southgate’s research can be found on Southgate’s new Health Equity Hub , which was also announced at these events.
Between these Canberra and Adelaide events, the Southgate Institute also organised a People’s Health Movement workshop in collaboration with the Public Health Association of Australia’s Political Economy of Health special interest group. The event was to debate current issues in health and health equity in Australia to take messages to the People’s Health Assembly in Bangladesh in October 2018. Professor Fran Baum, Dr. Matt Fisher, and Dr. Toby Freeman from the Southgate Institute presented at the event, as well as other speakers including Dr. Andrew Leigh MP, Pat Turner (NACCHO), Professor David Sanders, Donna Ah Chee, Dr. Peter Tait (PHAA), Professor David Legge (La Trobe University), Dr. Lyndall Strazdins and Dr. Belinda Townsend from ANU, and many others from unions, the health sector, and non-government organisations. Some of the key messages to come out of the event were the need to develop strategies to advocate against the negative health effects of industry, in particular transnational corporations and the poor employment conditions associated with the ‘gig’ economy, and the need to promote Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander definitions of health and caring for the land for the whole community.