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South Africa Hosts first-ever Primary Health Care Conference

From November 14 to 17, 2023, the National Department of Health (NDOH), the National Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), Health Systems Trust and the  World Health Organization (WHO) hosted the first-ever South African Primary Health Care (SAPHC) Conference in East London. The theme for this monumental event was, “Towards Universal Health Coverage, Strengthening Primary Health Care: A whole of Government, whole of Society Approach ” aimed to reinvigorate the nation’s commitment to the Primary Health Care (PHC) approach, emphasizing its significance in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) within the framework of the National Health Insurance (NHI) dispensation.

The roots of this conference are traced back to WHO’s 2008 World Health Report, which reaffirmed the vision of PHC as a set of values and principles guiding the development of health systems. South Africa’s journey toward PHC principles evolved over the past 30 years, transforming the health system from fragmentation to integration, marked by notable achievements such as increased access to PHC services and the endorsement of the NHI Policy in 2017.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director for WHO Africa, in her remarks stressed the importance and significance of this conference by stating that, “Universal Health Coverage sits at the heart of achieving Health for All, and Primary Health Care is the vehicle we need to accelerate progress and succeed. The Primary Health Care approach enables us to comprehensively meet the health needs of the population from health promotion and disease prevention to treatment, rehabilitation, and if needed palliative care, and as close as feasible to people’s everyday environment, regardless of their financial situation.

Dr. Owen Kaluwa, WHO South Africa’s Country Representative, stated that, “Primary Health Care is a comprehensive approach that provides accessible, affordable, and equitable health care services. It focuses on community-based health services, prevention, health promotion, and addressing social determinants of health. Primary Health Care is essential for driving improvements in health care services and outcomes, making it the foundation of Universal Health Coverage and a resilient health system.”

Over 450 participants attended the conference, drawing delegates from government, non-governmental and community-based organizations, civil society, academia, research institutions, the private sector, organized labor, and the complementary/alternative healing sector.

Comprising informative and interactive plenary and breakaway sessions, the conference featured international speakers sharing successful PHC implementation experiences. It provided a platform for showcasing successes at the provincial, district, and sub-district levels and encouraged input from other sectors on collaborative approaches.

The conference included tracks covering various aspects such as UHC and NHI, integration of priority programs into PHC, human resources for health, technology, and innovation, and addressing social determinants of health.

As South Africa hosted this historic conference, it marked a significant step toward building a better future for all citizens through the promotion and enhancement of Primary Health Care.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – South Africa.


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