Almaty scientific conference explores the crossroads of policy, research, education and practice in primary health care

WHO/Jerome Flayosc

Two days prior to the Global Conference on Primary Health Care held in Astana, health professionals, researchers, managers and experts from the WHO European Region gathered in Almaty to explore the multiple facets of primary health care. This scientific conference took stock of achievements during the 4 decades since the Declaration of Alma-Ata and explored linkages between the 4 spheres of policy, research, education and practice in primary health care.

Policy

The session on policy was opened by Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, who made a presentation on policy accelerators to strengthen primary health care. She placed particular emphasis on investing in the competencies of generalist medical practitioners and nurses, coordination with social care and integration of public health functions in primary health care.

Talgat Nurgozhin, Rector of the Kazakh National Medical University, acknowledged the importance of filling the gap between education in medical universities and the real health needs of populations.

Policy managers agreed that the connection between practice and research and pilot experiences is also very poor. How to scale up innovation, how to engage patients in decision-making and how to work with vulnerable communities, remain important challenges to be addressed to step up reforms in primary health care.

Research

Participants examined innovative methods for research on primary health care and discussed challenges for generating evidence at country level. Lina Jaruševičienė, the Vice-minister of Health of Lithuania, presented a case illustrating the types of evidence policy-makers need. In this context, a panel of representatives of 4 WHO knowledge hubs presented their working modalities to connect research to the policy cycles and reflected on their role as brokers and advisors in the decision-making processes. The panellists acknowledged the need to improve research methods to generate more evidence on implementation and document pilot and demonstration projects.

Education

Innovative learning processes, the prestige of primary health care professionals and transformations necessary for multiprofessional team work were discussed. Renato Galeazzi, an expert on postgraduate family medicine training, illustrated the professional learning path as a lifelong, self-directed and continued learning process.

Practice – marketplace of country experience

During the conference, a marketplace with participants from 10 countries of the WHO European Region presented on advancement of the primary health care agenda and shared hands-on experience on implementing reforms at national and subnational levels.