“There was magic in the air for the last 4 days, the magic of people’s strength.”
Amit Sengupta, closing the 4th People’s Health Assembly in Savar, Bangladesh
Southgate Institute researchers and Punching Above their Weight Network members were amongst 1400 civil society activists, researchers, government and health workers to attend the People’s Health Movement’s 4th People’s Health Assembly in Savar, Bangladesh 15-19th of November. In remembering Dr Halfdan Mahler, former Director General of WHO and one of the founders of the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care, the Assembly reaffirmed his vision that “Health is not a commodity, but a universal right”. For four days attendees listened and participated in rousing plenaries, collaborative workshops and informative thematic discussions on tackling the many social, political, economic and environmental issues impacting on health.
Professor Fran Baum, Director of the Southgate Institute and member of the People’s Health Movement Global Steering Council presented in the plenary session on the social and physical environments that destroy or promote health. A key argument that ran through Prof Baum’s presentation and many others was the need to put people before profits. This includes challenging the neoliberal capitalist policies which have dominated governance globally for over four decades, causing widening wealth and health inequities. As Oxfam reported in 2018 “New data from Credit Suisse means 42 people now own the same wealth as the bottom 3.7 billion people” (https://d1tn3vj7xz9fdh.cloudfront.net/s3fs-public/file_attachments/bp-reward-work-not-wealth-220118-en.pdf). In contrast to profit
driven health services, the Assembly emphasized the need for revitalization of primary healthcare for achieving universal health care and showcased a range of successful people-centred approaches to health care from around the world, including from Australia: Dr John Boffa, Chief Medical Officer at Central Australian Aboriginal Health Congress presented on the Community Controlled Comprehensive Primary Health Care Service in Alice Springs and the importance of self-determination for Indigenous people.
Prof Baum, Dr Connie Musolino and other PAW Network members Prof David Sanders, Nikki Schaay, Dr Mark Limmer, Prof Kedar Baral and Simrin Kafle ran a workshop on why some countries do well or badly in terms of life expectancy relative to their GDP. Focusing on case studies on South Africa and Nepal the workshop highlighted the importance of looking beyond just economic development, to the social, political and environmental determinants as factors contributing to better health outcomes. Drawing on participation from the audience, the workshop discussed civil society participation and community empowerment as a key determinant of health.
The third People’s Health Assembly was held in Cape Town, South Africa, in July 2012 in which six thematic circles were identified as being crucial to addressing poor health globally: health systems; food and nutrition; trade, health, and access to medicines; gender and health; the environment and development; and occupation, militarisation, and war. Attendees at PHA4 participated in sessions on these themes, to build solidarity across borders, share experiences and strategize for future events.
BMJ published three blogs by Professor Fran Baum over the course of the conference. You can read them here: https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2018/11/13/fran-baum-why-the-4th-peoples-health-assembly-is-an-important-event-for-global-health-equity/