Press Release: Astana Conference
On the 40th anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration, it has been recognized that a renewed commitment to Primary Health Care (PHC) is essential to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and with it, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Rather than treating diseases or specific conditions, PHC involves caring for people and providing comprehensive, accessible, community-based care that meets the health needs of individuals. PHC is an individual’s first point of contact with the health system. It is therefore critical to strengthen health services being delivered at the PHC interface to further efforts towards achieving UHC.
On 25-26 October 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Member States, and various stakeholders including several Non-State Actors gathered at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan. At the conference, a new declaration was launched, refocusing efforts toward primary health care to improve the standard of health experienced by people all over the world. The International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) representatives actively participated in high-level ministerial parallel sessions and events. IPSF representatives advocated for the pharmacist’s role in mental health, the empowerment of women and access to medicines. The representatives also proposed solutions to the problems of overdiagnosis and overtreatment and presented IPSF public health projects to other youth participants and public health associations to promote collaboration and strengthen primary health care services.
A day prior to the main event, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) coordinated a Youth Forum designed to empower the voice of young people and raise awareness about the significant impact of their contribution to the conference. During this forum, students from all over the world discussed the obstacles and challenges encountered when involving the voice of the youth in decision-making regarding health policy. IPSF contributed to the discussion by sharing the importance of a pharmacist’s role in the healthcare team and the benefits of interprofessional collaboration between student organisations.
IPSF recognises the important role of the youth as future pharmacists in advancing PHC. Globally, the role of young health care professionals in PHC has been gaining momentum. The youth are now more visible and are present at various high-level meetings on global health issues. As future health care professionals, individuals can have a large impact in local communities through translational research, health promotion, and advocating for improved health services. With the ever-changing health landscape brought about by emerging technologies, there is now a section of the new Alma-Alta declaration that incorporates technology and its role in advancing PHC. Particularly in the domain of technology and innovation, the youth are regarded as important stakeholders and leaders of the PHC revolution.
Much more still needs to be done to further advance the role of the youth in PHC. This can be achieved by incorporating PHC concepts into university curricula such that healthcare students are trained to take care of their patients as people. Moreover, PHC relies on collaboration between the members of the healthcare team and there is a need for the future health workforce to provide a horizontal approach of care enabling people access to comprehensive health services.
As future pharmacists, the youth also have a critical role in ensuring the rational use of medicines. Being one of the most accessible health care professionals, pharmacists are in a prime position to provide integrated health services that address several pertinent health issues such as mental health, a subject matter greatly emphasised throughout the conference.
PHC is at the heart of achieving UHC however this is impossible without an appropriately trained and capable health workforce. IPSF recognises its role as a youth healthcare organization regarding the importance of PHC. IPSF represents the future health workforce that will achieve UHC by advocating and practising PHC. Moreover, IPSF continues to advocate for quality, equitable, and accessible health services for all.