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The People’s Health Movement South Africa (PHM-SA) is the South African Chapter of the People’s Health Movement (PHM), a global network of grassroots activists, civil society and academics, predominantly from low and middle income countries. PHM-SA was started in 2003 by a small group of health activists, and launched in 2007 with its Right to Health Campaign.

PHM’s understanding of “Health” corresponds to the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as a state of complete mental, physical and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease. Therefore, PHM-SA does not limit its work to advocating for improved healthcare services for all. It also works with communities and civil society organisations to improve the social determinants of health (SDH), i.e. “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems.”

South Africa has become the most unequal society in the world, as measured by the Gini coefficient. Despite our progressive Constitution, the rights of the majority of our people – to dignity, life, freedom and security, privacy, health – are violated on a daily basis by the conditions in which they live. Currently, and for the foreseeable future, the majority of people in South Africa’s informal settlements, sprawling townships, rural areas and on farms, live in unhealthy, even life threatening, conditions. All people, especially growing, developing children, require adequate nutrition, access to adequate and safe drinking water, sanitation services and comprehensive primary health care.

The mission of PHM-SA is to improve the capacity of individuals and communities to realise their right to health and health care, and to advocate for a Primary Health Care approach, as defined in the Declaration of Alma Ata. PHM uses the term PHC in its broad, developmental sense, affirming health as a social, economic and political issue and, above all, as a fundamental human right. Fulfilment of this right requires not only universal access to excellent, equitable health services, but also concerted intersectoral state action to address the SDH. These are universally-recognised socio-economic rights essential for health, embodied in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as well as the South African Bill of Rights.


PHM-SA has an informal membership base that consists of activists who subscribe to the People’s Charter for Health and who support and participate in the work of the organisation.

Financial Governance

PHM-SA is a NPO (registration number 072-062-NPO) based in Cape Town, with active circles in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and members in Limpopo and the Northern Cape.