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David Sanders and Louis Reynolds
The global project to achieve Health for All through Primary Health Care (PHC) is a profoundly political one. In seeking to address both universal access to health care and the social determinants of health (SDH) it challenges power blocs which have material vested interests in technical approaches to health and development.
The forces that have shaped PHC include Community Oriented Primary Care and the Health Centre Movement, the “basic health services approach,” and nongovernmental and national initiatives that exemplified comprehensive and participatory approaches to health development. The 1978 Alma-Ata Declaration codified these experiences and advocated Health for All by the year 2000 through PHC. It emphasized equitable and appropriate community and primary-level health care as well as intersectoral actions and community participation to address the social and environmental determinants of health. This would need the support of a new international economic order.
The concept of “Selective Primary Health Care” emerged soon after Alma-Ata, privileging a limited set of technical interventions directed at selected groups, notably young children. This was soon operationalized as UNICEF’s Child Survival Revolution. The visionary and comprehensive policy of PHC was further eroded by the 1970s debt crisis and subsequent economic policies including structural adjustment and accelerated neoliberal globalization that deregulated markets and financial flows and reduced state expenditure on public services. This translated, in many countries, as “health sector reform” with a dominant focus on cost efficiency to the detriment of broad developmental approaches to health. More recently this selective approach has been aggravated by the financing of global health through public-private partnerships that fund specific interventions for selected diseases. They have also spawned many “service delivery” NGOs whose activities have often reinforced a biomedical emphasis, supported by large philanthropic funding such as that of the Gates Foundation.
Educational institutions have largely failed to transform their curricula to incorporate the philosophy and application of PHC to inform the practice of students and graduates, perpetuating weakness in its implementation.
Revitalizing PHC requires at least three key steps: improved equity in access to services, a strong focus on intersectoral action (ISA) to address SDH and prioritization of community-based approaches. The third sustainable development goal (SDGs) focuses on health, with universal health coverage (UHC) at its center. While UHC has the potential to enhance equitable access to comprehensive health care with financial protection, realizing this will require public financing based on social solidarity. Groups with vested interests such as private insurance schemes and corporate service providers have already organized against this approach in some countries. The SDGs also provide an opportunity to enhance ISA, since they include social and environmental goals that could also support the scaling up of Community Health Worker programs and enhanced community participation.
However, SDG-8, which proposes high economic growth based substantially on an extractivist model, contradicts the goals for environmental sustainability. Human-induced environmental degradation, climate change, and global warming have emerged as a major threat to health. As presciently observed at Alma-Ata, the success of PHC, and Health for All requires the establishment of a new, ecologically sustainable, economic order.
Gerard Bodeker and Kishan Kariippanon
An estimated 370 million Indigenous people reside in 90 countries and make up 5% of the global population. Three hundred million Indigenous people live in extremely disadvantaged rural locations. Indigenous people have suffered from historic injustices due to colonization and the dispossession of their lands, territories, and resources, thus preventing them from exercising their right to development according to their own needs and interests. Across the board, Indigenous people have poorer health outcomes when compared to their non-Indigenous fellow citizens.
Cancer, respiratory disease, endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic disorders, primarily diabetes, affect Indigenous people disproportionately. Newborns of Indigenous women are more than twice as likely to be of low birth weight as those born to non-Indigenous women. Indigenous rates of suicide are the highest in the world.
For public health to be effective, a social determinants approach, along with health interventions, is insufficient to create lasting health impact. Partnerships with Indigenous organizations, Indigenous researchers, and the professionalization of health workers is essential. Integration of traditional medicine and traditional health practitioners can enable the Western biomedical model to work in partnership with Indigenous knowledge systems and become more locally relevant and accountable.
The Indigenous health workforce is increasingly using evidence-based, innovative approaches to address the shortage of health professionals as they move toward universal health coverage. Internet, mobile, and communication technologies are enhancing the mobilization of Indigenous health efforts and the support for health workers in rural locations. Presented are country examples of integrated medicine and Indigenous partnerships that effectively implement health interventions.
Eve Dubé and Noni E. MacDonald
Vaccination is one of the greatest public health successes. With sanitation and clean water, vaccines are estimated to have saved more lives over the past 100 years than any other health intervention. Vaccination not only protects the individual, but also, in many instances, provides community protection against vaccine-preventable diseases through herd immunity. To reduce the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases, vaccination programs rely upon reaching and sustaining high coverage rates, but paradoxically, because of the success of vaccination, new generations are often unaware of the risks of these serious diseases and their concerns now concentrate on the perceived risk of individual vaccines. Over the past decades, several vaccine controversies have occurred worldwide, generating concerns about vaccine adverse effects and eroding trust in health authorities, experts, and science. Gaps in vaccination coverage can, in part, be attributed to vaccine hesitancy and not just to “supply side issues” such as access to vaccination services and affordability.
The concept of vaccine hesitancy is now commonly used in the discourse around vaccine acceptance. The World Health Organization defines vaccine hesitancy as “lack of acceptance of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific, varying across time, place and vaccines.” A vaccine-hesitant person can delay, be reluctant but still accept, or refuse one, some, or all vaccines. Technical, psychological, sociocultural, political, and economic factors can contribute to vaccine hesitancy. At the individual level, recent reviews have focused on factors associated with vaccination acceptance or refusal, identifying determinants such as fear of side effects, perceptions around health and prevention of disease and a preference for “natural” health, low perception of the efficacy and usefulness of vaccines, negative past experiences with vaccination services, and lack of awareness or knowledge about vaccination.
Very few interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing vaccine hesitancy. Most of the studies have only focused on metrics of vaccine uptake and refusal to evaluate interventions aimed at enhancing vaccine acceptance, which makes it difficult to assess their potential effectiveness to address vaccine hesitancy. In addition, despite the complex nature of vaccination decision-making, the majority of public health interventions to promote vaccination are designed with the assumption that vaccine hesitancy is due to lack or inadequate knowledge about vaccines (the “knowledge-deficit” or “knowledge gap” approach). A key predictor of acceptance of a vaccine by a vaccine-hesitant person remains the recommendation for vaccination by a trusted healthcare provider. When providers communicate effectively about the value and need for vaccinations and vaccine safety, people are more confident in their decisions. However, to do this well, healthcare providers must be confident themselves about the safety, effectiveness, and importance of vaccination, and recent research has shown that a proportion of healthcare providers are vaccine-hesitant in their professional and personal lives. Effective strategies to address vaccine hesitancy among these hesitant providers have yet to be identified. A better understanding of the dynamics of the underlying determinants of vaccine hesitancy is critical for effective tailored interventions to be designed for both the public and healthcare providers.
Maria Cecília de Souza Minayo and Saul Franco
Violence is a problem that accompanies the trajectory of humanity, but it presents itself in different ways in each society and throughout its historical development. Despite having different meanings according to the field of knowledge from which it is addressed and the institutions that tackle it, there are some common elements in the definition of this phenomenon. It is acknowledged as the intentional use of force and power by individuals, groups, classes, or countries to impose themselves on others, causing harm and limiting or denying rights. Its most frequent and visible forms include homicides, suicides, war, and terrorism, but violence is also articulated and manifested in less visible forms, such as gender violence, domestic violence, and enforced disappearances.
Although attention to the consequences of different forms of violence has always been part of health services, its formal and global inclusion in health sector policies and guidelines is very recent. It was only in 1996 that the World Health Organization acknowledged it as a priority in the health programs of all countries. Violence affects individual and collective health; causes deaths, injuries, and physical and mental trauma; decreases the quality of life; and impairs the well-being of people, communities, and nations. At the same time, violence poses problems for health researchers trying to understand the complexity of its causes, its dynamics, and the different ways of dealing with it. It also poses serious challenges to health systems and services for the care of victims and perpetrators and the formulation of interdisciplinary, multi-professional, inter-sectoral, and socially articulated confrontation and prevention policies and programs.
Fernando Arbués and Marián García-Valiñas
In the current context of climate change, water scarcity has become the center of an intense debate in recent years. Spain is a country affected by strong regional differences in terms of weather; thus, the quality and availability of water resources vary widely depending on the area, and the country is plagued by droughts and problems with water quality. Nevertheless, urban water prices in Spain are among the lowest in the European Union. Moreover, it is a federal country where subcentral governments (regional and local) are autonomous entities with different responsibilities in the design of water policies. The extremely atomized local panorama and the strong power of the regional governments have led to a highly complex system with a wide range of water price levels and structures. Since the heterogeneity is so great, this article focuses on the tariffs related to the water supply service in the 15 largest Spanish cities. In general, urban water tariffs commonly distinguish between residential and non-residential users. Additionally, there are usually specific tariffs for different customer categories within both residential and non-residential users, which are not always justified in terms of the equity principle. It is important to note that in most cities the eligibility criteria for these special tariffs usually add more complexity to the tariff system and adversely affect horizontal equity. All these factors contribute to the great complexity of Spain’s water-pricing map. The heterogeneous tariff system found in most Spanish cities runs counter to equity principles and can send the wrong signal to users about water scarcity, thereby hindering compliance with the resource sustainability objective. Thus, most Spanish cities require a simplification of the tariff system.
Gerard Bodeker, Sergio Pecorelli, Lawrence Choy, Ranieri Guerra, and Kishan Kariippanon
The scientific landscape of wellbeing and mental wellness has developed significantly through interdisciplinary cross-pollination by researchers in molecular genetics, neuroscience, sociology, economics, including traditional and complementary medicine. The public health challenge lies in using this diverse body of scientific evidence to reframe wellbeing and mental wellness within a 21st-century global public health framework that incorporates evidence-based modalities alongside Western biomedical practice. Evidence on modalities, case studies, policy examples, and emerging directions in societal objectives in wellbeing and mental wellness are discussed in the context of a way forward that focuses on individual self-care, development of resilience, lifespan pathways for wellbeing, and a different economic calculus in framing public health priorities and policies.
The causes of what has emerged from 30 years of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) can only be understood through understanding the factors that have shaped its evolution. The OPP was established by Akhtar Hameed Khan whose experience-based thinking and theorization has shaped the project philosophy and methodology. Situated in Orangi Town in Karachi, Pakistan, the project has motivated local communities to finance and build their own neighborhood infrastructure while encouraging the local government to build the off-site infrastructure such as trunk sewers and treatment plants. The project expanded to other areas of Pakistan with the OPP’s Research and Training Institute, training local communities in surveying, estimating materials and labor required for construction works, and motivating communities in building their sanitation systems and negotiating with local government to build the off-site infrastructure. The project methodology has been adopted by local governments and bilateral and international development agencies. The philosophy and methodology have also become a part of universities’ and bureaucratic training institutions’ curriculum. So far, households on over 15,560 lanes all over Pakistan have built their sanitation systems by investing 412 million rupees (Rs). According to the OPP 153rd quarterly report in 2018, the total number of households in these lanes is 272,506. The model shaped the sanitation policy of the government of Pakistan and also influenced policies on housing and informal development, which has results in the upgrade in a much greater number of households in urban areas such as Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Kasur, Narowal, Sargodha, Nowshera, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Rawalpindi, Muzaffargarh, Swat, Lodhran, Kehror Pakka, Dunyapur, Khanpur, Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Jalah Arain, Yazman, Vehari, Uchh, Multan, Alipur, Gujranwala, Jampur, Sanghar, Amanullah, Parhoon, Mithi, and Sinjhoro, as well as 128 villages.
The project suffered a major blow with the assassination of its director and one of its workers and an attempt on the life of its deputy director in 2013. Due to the resulting insecurity, project programs and various linkages with government and international agencies and nongovernmental organizations suffered. However, due to the OPP’s reputation of capability and its roots within the community, the project has survived (against all predictions) and is in the process of expanding its work and expertise.
In different countries and regions of the world—particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean—the term “workers’ health” may have different meanings. From a more traditional perspective, defined on economic and demographic bases, this term introduces a delimitation characterized by economically active people, usually over 10 years of age, of both sexes, and who are working, have worked at some point in their life, or are in search of work. This condition usually ceases in case of retirement or disability. Such a criterion, as can be imagined, is extremely imprecise, particularly in regions such as the ones analyzed here, since it includes great variability of situations, including work considered informal; the work of children and adolescents (prohibited or restricted in accordance with international labor standards); clandestine and illegal work; domestic work (sometimes not formally recognized); and slave and forced labor. It is not clear, either, when work activity actually ceases, especially when there are no social protection systems for elderly and disabled people. But even if this definition is adopted, it is already possible to foresee the complexity of the theme, both in the conceptual perspective and in the scope of health programs, as well as in the health and illness problems of this population.
However, in some countries, the term “workers’ health” (or “worker’s health”) goes beyond the economic or demographic delimitation, and includes a paradigm shift about the role of workers in the struggle for their health. This perspective, political and ideological, originates in the concepts and experience of the “Italian Labor Model”; brings in elements of the Marxist discourses and Liberation Theology; takes advantage of and improves the perspective of “Social Epidemiology” or “Social Medicine”; and, in our continent, can be considered as an unfolding of “Latin American Social Epidemiology.” This understanding of workers’ health also depends on social movements—such as unions and other forms of organizing workers—as well as on political leaders committed to the struggle of workers against precarious work, unemployment and the destruction of already established social rights, especially in the context of neoliberalism.
Therefore, workers’ health is a polysemic and complex concept, and its discussion is a living, dynamic, and extremely rich agenda.