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Primary health care brochure coverCommemorating 40 years of international Primary Health Care in the Faculty of Health Sciences (1978-2018)

The revolutionary idea of Primary Health Care (PHC), as expressed in the Declaration of Alma Ata at the International Conference on Primary Health Care in September 1978[1], is 40 years old this year.

The Declaration defined health as a state of complete mental, physical and social wellbeing, and not just the absence of disease or disability, and affirmed health as a fundamental human right. International health leaders will be renewing their commitment to strengthen PHC with a new Declaration at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care from 25-26 October 2018[2].

Since joining the international community of nations in 1994, South Africa has adopted the philosophy of PHC as the basis of its health policy and healthcare service delivery[3]. This philosophy also lies at the heart of the Faculty’s vision, and hence PHC was adopted in 1994 as a lead theme for teaching, research, and social responsiveness. The principles of PHC focus our attention on advocating for equal and equitable access to health, universal health care, health promotion, interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral collaboration, and contextualised health care that is patient-centred, acceptable, affordable and sustainable.

In short - Health for All.

The international Declaration on PHC represented a ground-breaking shift from treatment-centred and top-down biomedical service delivery to a participatory social model that emphasises intersectoral public health and preventative strategies to address the social determinants of health[4].  The renewal of the Declaration means nothing however if we as a Faculty do not continually examine how appropriate, accessible and affordable our research, teaching and health care services are to the communities we serve[5].

The PHC Directorate has therefore been planning a Faculty-wide commemoration of the 40th anniversary of PHC (PHC@40) to reaffirm our Faculty’s commitment to make the PHC lead theme real in our mission of teaching, research and health service delivery to all. The commemoration will commence with a ‘Big Ideas’ cross-disciplinary series of seminars about practices, ideas and research that contribute to “Health for All” in our context (see PHC@40 ‘Big Ideas’ programme below for 30 July to 7 September 2018) and will culminate in a Faculty workshop and Faculty Assembly towards the end of the year.

Please join us in making the most of this opportunity.


James Irlam; Sarah Crawford-Browne; Gerald Mabweazara

Primary Health Care Directorate

UCT Faculty of Health Sciences


Primary Health Care: Health for all.


PHC@40 ‘Big Ideas’ programme outline, 30 July to 7 September 2018


   Week                                    Theme            





30 July – 3 August

“It’s for Everyone”

Universal Access to Health Care


6 – 10 August


“Leaving No-one Behind” 


Promoting Human Rights & Equity


13 – 17 August                          


“Let’s Get Moving!”           


Promoting Health for All


20 – 25 August


“We’re in it Together”


Building partnerships


27 – 31 August


“It’s More than Medicine…”


Providing Complete Care


3 – 7 September


“Includes YOU!”


Promoting Self-care for Health Workers




See more at:


[1] Declaration of Alma-Ata. International Conference on Primary Health Care, Alma-Ata, USSR, 6-12 September 1978.

[2] Global Conference on Primary Health Care: Achieving Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.

[3] Naledi T, Barron P, Schneider H. Primary health care in SA since 1994 and implications of the new vision for PHC Re-engineering. In: Padarath A, English R, editors. South African Health Review 2011. Durban: Health Systems Trust, 2011. p. 17-28.

[4] Topp SM, Abimbola S. Call for papers—the Alma Ata Declaration at 40: reflections on primary healthcare in a

new era. BMJ Glob Health 2018;3