Health and social justice activists as well as health ministers and key policy makers from across the world will meet in Cape Town this week to address the drivers of inequity which fundamentally impact on the health of the poor.
Despite unprecedented global wealth the world is experiencing a crisis of economic instability, increasing inequality and environmental degradation.
Two major meetings will draw together various role players from South Africa and the rest of the world to discuss the issues that are fundamental to the planet and to the country’s health and future development, and plan actions.
The South Africa and National Health Insurance-focused National Health Assembly (NHA) kicks off on Thursday and will end on Friday when Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi opens the global People's Health Assembly (PHA).
The third PHA is described as “an assembly for and by people from around the world”.
The first PHA was held in Savar, Bangladesh in 2000. More than 1 500 people from around the world drew up and endorsed The People’s Charter for Health, the PHM’s founding document. The second PHA was held in Cuenca, Ecuador in 2005.
“The PHA provides a space for strengthening solidarity, sharing experiences, mutual learning and joint strategising for future actions at an international and global level,” the PHM said.
Around 1 200 participants from across the globe are expected to attend the Assembly, particularly from low and middle-income countries.
The main themes at this week’s PHA include the global political and economic context of health; social and physical environments that destroy or promote health; and universal coverage and equity in comprehensive and integrated health systems
on Thursday and Friday will focus on South Africa, which faces a health crisis with its quadruple burden of disease and its fragmented and dysfunctional health system.
For a country that boasts the highest GDP on the continent, it has poor health indicators and faces 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 PHM said in a statement.
“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),” they added.
The NHA 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.
The University of the Western Cape will be the venue for the meetings with grassroots activists from 60 countries attending. The PHA ends on Wednesday.