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Primary health care, universal health coverage and the Astana Global Conference

© UNICEF/UN043483/Pirozzi

What is primary health care?

Primary health care is an approach to designing and delivering frontline health services that lays a foundation for achieving universal health coverage. Universal health coverage is one of the targets of the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG3): Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Primary health care includes three core elements:

  • Affordable and accessible health services, including quality primary care, and essential public health functions that promote health and well-being, prevent illness and protect populations against outbreaks of disease.
  • Empowered people and engaged communities, to whom health services are accountable, and who are also responsible for their own health.
  • Inputs (policies, actions, resources) from all sectors that influence health and well-being, ranging from agriculture, manufacturing, education, water, sanitation and hygiene, transport and the media etc.

What is the Astana Global Conference?

On 25-26 October 2018, world leaders, government ministers, development partners, civil society and young people will meet in Astana for the Global Conference on Primary Health Care, jointly hosted by the Government of Kazakhstan, UNICEF and WHO. Participants will renew their commitment to primary health care as the means of achieving universal health coverage, SDG3 and other SDG goals to which health is a contributing factor.

The Conference will mark 40 years since the first Global Conference on Primary Health Care, held in 1978 in Almaty (then Alma-Ata), Kazakhstan. The Declaration of Alma-Ata endorsed at that conference was a seminal document that founded a movement and advocacy for primary health care.

The 2018 Conference will endorse a new Declaration of Astana which emphasizes the critical role of primary health care in promoting good health, social and economic development and global security. It aims to refocus efforts to ensure that everyone everywhere can enjoy their right to the highest standard of health.

How does primary health care contribute to universal health care?

Universal health care is based on the principle that all individuals and communities should have access to quality essential health services without suffering financial hardship. Primary health care contributes to this by ensuring that health services are available, accessible and affordable – including services that prevent illness, cure disease and promote good health.

How is UNICEF contributing to the event in Astana and to primary health care?

UNICEF is working closely with WHO and the Government of Kazakhstan to support and prepare for the conference. All UNICEF offices are mobilizing government and civil society partners, and making sure the core elements of primary health care are prioritized in the allocation of funding and resources, and in follow up actions. UNICEF is coordinating a Youth Forum that will be held on the day prior to the main event to bring the voices of young people into the conference.

UNICEF is also part of a core group of global and regional partners working to support primary health care at country and sub-national levels. The group, which includes UN agencies, donor governments, philanthropic foundations, multilateral agencies like the Global Fund, Gavi and others, is developing a set of operating principles that will prioritize the three core elements described above, and ensure primary health care remains in place after their support has ended. This will be reflected in UNICEF’s own programmes with governments and partners.

Success stories: How primary health care helps mothers and children

When text messages save lives
How visiting nurses help prevent child deaths in Kazakhstan
From factory floors to Rohingya refugee children: The journey of a vaccine
Mobile medical teams provide a lifeline for children in remote parts of Yemen
Investing in better care during baby’s first days is saving lives in Kyrgyzstan
Every child deserves a fair chance. A childhood. A future.
In Mali, tradition meets modernity for nutrition

More information about the Astana Global Conference

WHO Global Conference on Primary Health Care website
The Declaration of Alma-Ata
Provisional conference programme

Please complete the form to register your interest in participating in the conference.

Your organization can also apply to host a café session or exhibit. Click here to apply.


In partnership with WHO



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