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PEOPLE’S HEALTH ASSEMBLY – 6TH TO 11TH JULY 2012

The Third People’s Health Assembly (PHA-3) will take place at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa, from 6 – July 2012. It will bring together health activists, civil society, academics, communities, health professionals, social networks and individuals from across the world to analyze global health and to strategize jointly towards Health for All.

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PHM-SA press release
Despite unprecedented global wealth the world is experiencing a crisis of economic instability, increasing inequality and environmental degradation. This translates everywhere into a widening health gap between rich and poor and unnecessary and avoidable suffering that will also affect future generations.

Next week Cape Town will host two major events that will draw together health and social justice activists as well as several health ministers and key policy makers from South Africa, Africa and the world to discuss issues that are fundamental to the planet and to the country’s health and future development, and plan actions. These two events – a National Health Assembly and a Global People’s Health Assembly – will present a unique opportunity for all those concerned with the global, continental and national health crises.

The National Health Assembly
South Africa faces a health crisis with its quadruple burden of disease and its fragmented and dysfunctional health system.

Combinations of poverty, racial and social inequality and neoliberal policy decisions have contributed to the poor state of health in South Africa. For a country that boasts the highest GDP on the continent, we have very poor health indicators and face massive inequalities in access to health care. The HIV/AIDS & TB epidemics, a growing burden of non-communicable diseases, and high rates of injuries and fatalities impose a heavy burden of disease on a fragmented and dysfunctional health system.

Both the private and public sectors are themselves in crisis and essentially unsustainable, and current government initiatives to transform health care delivery are to be welcomed.
The twin keys to a transformation that meets the health and health care needs of all are the National Health Insurance scheme (NHI) and the Reengineering of Primary Health Care (PHC).
There has been little informed public debate on either of these issues, and even less on the wider social and economic conditions that impact on health. Meaningful community and citizen participation in health and the health system is essential for success; both are fundamental pillars of PHC.

The National Health Assembly will bring together government representatives, community organisations, trade unions, social networks, individuals and community health workers with health activists, civil society organisations, academics, and health professionals from across South Africa. It will open up this essential debate and come up with a way forward that is more participatory than the process has been until now.

The NHA’s three themes are 1) the Rationale for the NHI and Financing of Health Care, 2) the Social Determinants of Health, and 3) Building a Comprehensive and Equitable Health System, and there will be a number of workshops under each theme. The outcomes of these workshops will be consolidated into a document with action plans.

The NHA will also prepare South African delegates for the People’s Health Assembly that follows immediately after it.

The People’s Health Assembly (PHA-3)
The PHA is an assembly for and by people from around the world. The first PHA (PHA-1)was held in Savar, Bangladesh in 2000. More than 1500 people from around the world drew up and endorsed The People’s Charter for Health, the PHM’s founding document. PHA-2 was held in Cuenca, Ecuador in 2005 and attended by a similar number.

Like the NHA, the PHA provides a space for strengthening solidarity, sharing experiences, mutual learning and joint strategizing for future actions at an international and global level.

Around 1200 participants from across the globe are expected to attend the Assembly, particularly from low and middle income countries. Participants have been mobilized through country and regional meetings. As with the South African NHA, the pre-Assembly mobilization process has engaged active civil society especially at the grassroots level.

The main thematic axes of PHA-3 are:

  • The Global Political and Economic context of health
  • Social and Physical Environments that destroy or promote health
  • Universal coverage and equity in comprehensive and integrated health systems
  • Beyond the Crisis: Mobilizing for Health for All

The organization of the PHA-3 aims at providing the largest possible space for sharing experiences, mutual learning and strategizing for future action in other countries and around the world.

The University of the Western Cape will be the venue for these assemblies. Amongst the participants will be the South African Minister of Health, the Vice Minister of Health of El Salvador, a past Minister of Health of Bolivia, senior policy makers from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Brazil, Rwanda and other countries. Also present in large numbers will be grassroots activists from over 60 countries.

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About Jodi Le Roux