The People’s Health Movement (PHM) is a global coalition of grassroots and health activist organisations dedicated to addressing the burden of preventable disease globally but in particular that carried by developing countries. The goal of the People’s Health Movement is to re-establish health and equitable development as top priorities in local, national and international policy-making with comprehensive primary health care as a key strategy to achieve these priorities.
The purposes and orientation of the PHM are spelled out clearly in the People’s Charter for Health PHM Charter. We aim to entrench the right to health as a basic human right. We aim to tackle the broader determinants of health (globalisation, environmental degradation, violence and war). We see a people-centred health sector with strong popular participation as keys to these goals.
The PHM affirms that the vision of the Alma-Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care is still relevant if the structured unfairness of the current global regime is to be reformed as part of creating the conditions for better health. See also Amit Sengupta comment on Alam-Ata 40 years on. This perspective has a particular relevance for rich world countries such as Australia who are beneficiaries of the disposition of resources, ideologies and power. This is the big challenge facing the PHM in Australia.
How it all started
In December 2000 an historic first People's Health Assembly was held at Savar in Bangladesh. Over 1400 progressive health activists from 92 countries gathered for a week to share experiences, analyses and strategies. The meeting followed 18 months of preparatory work towards the goal of reinstating the 'Health for All' principle of the Alma Ata declaration to its rightful place in the development agenda. A key feature of the meeting were the personal testimonies, stories from different communities where the struggle for health is at its sharpest.
The second PHA was held in Cuenca, Ecuador in 2005. PHA3 was held in Cape Town in 2012.
The 4th PHA was held just outside Dhaka, Bangladesh from 15-19 November 2018. The debate and vibe of the Assembly were widely broadcast through social media. Peoples Dispatch produced a number of [videos] featuring some of the speakers. The Twitter feed was very active during the Assembly (look for #PHA4) as was Instagram (#pha4) and Periscope (two nice clips with an Australian link; also #pha4).
Why it was important
This was a unique meeting for several reasons. It was a meeting of grass roots practitioners and activists and community based NGOs; not government officials. The dominant perspective on problems and pathways to health development was a bottom up grassroots third world perspective. Among the sponsors of this prospectus were a small number of Australian and New Zealand participants.
The participants of PHA 2000 recognised themselves as part of a global People's Health Movement and authorised a small group of organisers and activists to put in place a global infrastructure to sustain and build upon the energy of the December 2000 gathering. They have since undertaken further initiatives and projects to advance the shared program and have organised further meetings under the name of the People's Health Movement (PHM).
At the first Assembly, the participants reviewed their problems and difficulties, shared their experiences and plans, and formulated and endorsed the People's Charter for Health. The Charter sets out a clear analysis of the causes of global inequity in health and articulates a range of strategies and policies to redress those causes. It is now the common tool of a worldwide citizen's movement committed to making the Alma-Ata dream a reality.
Aims of the movement
The goal of the People’s Health Movement is to re-establish health and equitable development as top priorities in local, national and international policy-making, with comprehensive primary health care as the strategy to achieve these priorities. The PHM aims to draw on and support people’s movements in their struggles to build long-term and sustainable solutions to health problems.
The PHM is an network of global and national organisations committed to giving voice to the people whose health is shaped by policies and programs so often imposed rather than built up in partnership. It’s membership comprises grass root and activist health organisations largely from Third World countries although there is representation from some industrialised countries including Australia.
Since the first Assembly, the PHM has undertaken a wide range of campaigning, projects and activities, including co-organising the International Health Forum held in Mumbai in January 2004.
History of PHM in Australia
A group of PHM representatives from India, Ecuador, South Africa, the Phillipines and Nicaragua attended the 2004 world health promotion conference in Melbourne and in association with that conference undertook a speaking tour in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Many health activists were inspired by the vision presented by these PHM leaders and realised that it was the right time to bring the work of the PHM in Australia to a more active and more organized status.
The goal of the PHM in Australia, known as PHM Oz, is to (re-)establish health and equitable development as top priorities in local, national and international policy-making, with comprehensive primary health care as a central strategy to achieve these priorities. It also aims to draw on and support people’s movements in their struggles to build long-term and sustainable solutions to health problems.
Activists are currently working in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales to create PHM Oz as a network of interested individuals and health organisations. PHM Oz will provide a link with and support the global movement as well as undertaking advocacy work within Australia.
PHM Oz is a non-profit organisation run by volunteers. We welcome any financial contributions, please email us to discuss this matter.