When I took office in 2007, I made clear my commitment to direct WHO's attention towards primary health care. More important than my own conviction, this reflects the widespread and growing demand for primary health care from Member States. This demand in turn displays a growing appetite among policy-makers for knowledge related to how health systems can become more equitable, inclusive and fair.
It also reflects, more fundamentally, a shift towards the need for more comprehensive thinking about the performance of the health system as a whole.
This year marks both the 60th birthday of WHO and the 30th anniversary of the Declaration of Alma-Ata on Primary Health Care in 1978. While our global health context has changed remarkably over six decades, the values that lie at the core of the WHO Constitution and those that informed the Alma-Ata Declaration have been tested and remain true. Yet, despite enormous progress in health globally, our collective failures to deliver in line with these values are painfully obvious and deserve our greatest attention.
We see a mother suffering complications of labour without access to qualified support, a child missing out on essential vaccinations, an inner-city slum dweller living in squalor. We see the absence of protection for pedestrians alongside traffic-laden roads and highways, and the impoverishment arising from direct payment for care because of a lack of health insurance. These and many other everyday realities of life personify the unacceptable and avoidable shortfalls in the performance of our health systems.
In moving forward, it is important to learn from the past and, in looking back, it is clear that we can do better in the future. Thus, this World Health Report revisits the ambitious vision of primary health care as a set of values and principles for guiding the development of health systems. The Report represents an important opportunity to draw on the lessons of the past, consider the challenges that lie ahead, and identify major avenues for health systems to narrow the intolerable gaps between aspiration and implementation.
These avenues are defined in …