Celebrating 35 years of commitment to primary health care in the WHO European Region

Highlighting a 3-day visit to Kazakhstan, Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, addressed the International conference to mark the 35th anniversary of the Declaration of Alma-Ata on Primary Health Care, which took place in Almaty on 6-7 November 2013. High-level respresentatives of the Government of Kazakhstan, national representatives from 58 countries across the six WHO regions, and international partners participated in the Conference.

As Ms Jakab explained in her opening remarks, the Declaration of Alma-Ata was the first international document in which the importance of primary health care as a strategy for achieving Health for All was underlined. "It put health equity on the international political agenda for the first time", she said. Ms Jakab also unveiled a memorial plaque commemorating the site where 134 countries met and adopted the Declaration.

The Conference was organized and hosted by the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan with the support of WHO/Europe and the United Nations Children's Fund. It provided an international platform to discuss policy, practice and research primary health care, as well as priority challenges to, options for, and lessons learnt in developing primary health care based on experience gained since the adoption of the Declaration in 1978.

Establishment of geographically dispersed office for primary health care in Kazakhstan

At its sixty-third session on 16–19 September 2013, the WHO Regional Committee for Europe decided to accept the offer of the Government of Kazakhstan to host the new geographically dispersed office (GDO) for primary health care, which will serve all 53 Member States of the WHO European Region. During her meeting with Mr Alexei Volkov, Deputy Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Jakab commended the Government of Kazakhstan for its commitment to primary health care and highlighted the potential benefits of the new GDO for Kazakhstan, for the European Region and for cooperation with other WHO regions. Ms Jakab was able to visit the potential premises at the initial location of the GDO.

Ms Jakab also visited a centre for practical-skills training at the Kazakh National Medical University in Almaty. Stressing the importance of a broad medical education to a group of medical students at the University, she highlighted Kazakhstan's achievements, for example, in reducing child mortality and, thus, practically achieving the Millennium Development Goal 4 target ahead of 2015. She also emphasized the need to promote intersectoral work to achieve further public health gains and the importance of ensuring that upcoming medical professionals are equipped to carry forward the concepts of equity and primary care.

In a ceremony led by the Rector of the University and attended by the Minister of Health, Dr Salidat Kairbekova, Ms Jakab was awarded the title of Honorary Professor of Kazakh National Medical University.

Bilateral collaborative agreement

Culminating the visit to Kazakhstan and consultations with key government officials on priorities for collaboration between Kazakhstan and WHO/Europe in the coming two years, Ms Jakab and Dr Kairbekova signed a bilateral collaborative agreement for 2014–2015.