The idea that primary health care is the foundation of strong, equitable health systems is not new. In October, health funders, policymakers and practitioners came together in Astana, Kazakhstan to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1978 Alma-Ata Declaration and reaffirm their commitment to primary health care as the most equitable and sustainable strategy to achieve health for all.
Yet all too often, primary health care is the weakest link in a health system. Many countries have identified primary health care as an urgent priority, but don’t have the information they need to drive targeted improvements. Uncoordinated data systems that fail to combine local and national-level inputs make it hard to see where primary health care is falling short, and the data that does exist is often of poor quality or difficult for governments and donors to understand and use. With half of the world’s people lacking access to essential health services, most of which can be delivered through strong primary health care, we have an opportunity and responsibility to act now.