From the President - October 2017

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One of the wonderful privileges of being a WONCA leader is seeing the many colleagues worldwide who are committed to family medicine in all its stages and settings.


The very successful regional Africa conference in Pretoria celebrated progress in our most challenged region, including presentations from countries such as Malawi and Ethiopia who are at the earliest stages of family medicine development. The leadership of the WONCA Africa Executive included a great keynote from our regional President, Dr Henry Lawson, and some of our Working Parties and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) made important contributions. We launched the WONCA Africa Rural chapter (WoRA), and the WONCA Working Party on Women and Family Medicine (WWPWFM) awarded the first Atai Omoruto scholarships in memory of our beloved Atai, whose daughter Dorothy was with us for the awards ceremony.  (photo shows Amanda at the awards with other women and the winners)

Members wishing to support female family doctors from Africa to attend future WONCA Africa meetings can donate by emailing the WONCA manager [email protected].

Much work remains, and any other regions or member organisations who want to support work in Africa are advised to contact Henry Lawson and colleagues for advice as to how this might best work.

[email protected]

Hong Kong

Then on to Hong Kong to join one of our strongest and most mature member organisations celebrating their fortieth anniversary. Our President-Elect, Dr Donald Li, gave an excellent presentation (the current Executive are a talented bunch!) It was great to meet representatives from mainland China who are being supported in the early phases of Family Medicine implementation, and also to see clinics and academic units who are working together to strengthen primary health care in the region. Nevertheless there are significant issues around financial packages which incentivise ‘doctor shopping’ and hospital based care, and where overmedicalisation can be a risk – the opposite end of the spectrum from the under-resourced and minimal services in many parts of Africa.

Photo: In Hong Kong with other dignitaries including president elect Donald Li (second from left)


All this was built on, in my visit to the annual conference of our biggest member organisation, in the invaluable company of the North America regional president, Dr Ruth Wilson. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has 129,000 members, and all states were represented at the conference, as well as colleagues from Canada and the Caribbean. The three priorities of the meeting were better health coverage for all, reduced regulatory and bureaucratic burden, and more support for family doctors in their daily contribution. The USA has one of the most fragmented and complex systems in the world, with many citizens without access to healthcare even though the country is one of the richest in the world, but the social conscience and moral drive towards healthcare equity in the meeting was hugely admirable – may it deliver against the current odds.

And Next?

Now I go on to Lebanon, Paris, and then Washington – the latter meetings both about the continuing need to define fair and robust ways to measure effective primary healthcare. A number of our leading family medicine academics are involved in this ‘industry’, where there are risks for our community if our contribution is not made more visible. The last policy bites and much of the WONCA Working Party on Research efforts are examining what part we can play to address this, but we are also trying to ensure that other stakeholders understand what we do and which data it is feasible for us to collect (as discussed in the AAFP meeting!)

And I also prepare for the October ‘live’ meeting of our Executive, in Bangkok, ahead of the Asia Pacific regional conference; work on other WONCA ventures; and feel the wider sorrows of the world as we hear of the consequences of the hurricanes and earthquakes in the Americas and the political instabilities throughout the world.

I think we have great cause to be hopeful because of the wonderful work of our members worldwide – let that sustain us all.

Amanda Howe
WONCA President