From the President: April 2019

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Each WONCA President has an advantage in one part of the world or another depending on where they were born, what language(s) they speak, where they practice, and where they live. We use the advantages we have to help influence the uptake of and quality of family medicine globally – but we also use any advantage we have to influence things closer to home as well.

My advantage is that although I live and work in Hong Kong, I have family and professional associations across one of the largest countries in the world. China has made huge strides in recent years to develop family medicine and improve access to primary health care. The reform of the health service continues.

During March, I was honoured to be a delegate on behalf of the health sector, at the annual CPPCC (The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), which took place in Beijing (photo at right). The CPPCC is presided over by President Xi, with over 2,000 delegates, representing all sectors. Work on health issues was intense and we had a series of large and small group discussions, as well as negotiations about ongoing health reforms in China. Healthy China is China’s response to the Astana Declaration to achieve Universal Health Coverage. I was invited to make a presentation on enhancement of primary care. I stressed the importance of safety and quality and I introduced the work of various related WONCA Working Parties.

I am pleased to be an advisor on family medicine development in one particular area of China – the Greater Bay Area. Development of family medicine is progressing well here, with a real commitment to the way primary health care is delivered. Before the CPPCC, I made a presentation on family medicine development to the Greater Bay Area Medical and Health Development Conference. At the end of the conference, we agreed a training programme for family doctors of the Greater Bay Area, which will be led by UMP of Hong Kong.

During the CPPCC, I took the opportunity to hold further discussions with Madam Zhang, the Head of International Affairs at the National Health Commission, to discuss hosting a side event on primary health care and family medicine at the upcoming World Health Assembly, in May. We will keep you posted on developments.

While in Beijing, there was a welcome chance to meet with WHO’s country representative, Dr Gauden Galea (pictured at right). We discussed WHO’s commitment to Universal Health Coverage, and how WONCA can support the achievement of that goal through practical, technical advice at country level, and through regional offices, and at headquarters. We also discussed the very positive implications of the restructuring of WHO, as announced by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on 6th March, which puts primary care firmly under the Universal Health Coverage and Life Course pillar. It was also reassuring to see that the increasingly important issue of Emergency Preparedness and Response is now a separate WHO pillar, reporting directly to the Director General.

Family medicine clinics in China were the first to undergo WONCA practice accreditation. Clinics want to show that they are providing appropriate services and quality of care to patients, in the absence of national standards against which they could be assessed. The pilot accreditations were undertaken in April 2018 (in Beijing and Shanghai). The latest batch of practice accreditation visits were undertaken in February 2019. The accreditation team undertook visits in Hong Kong, before going to Shenzen for further accreditation visits. While in China the team were asked to visit a number of government health clinics in the Greater Bay Area, to advise on the process to apply for WONCA practice accreditation in the future. The CEO reports more fully on the latest accreditations in his article this month.

As part of WONCA’s greater engagement with China, the WONCA Executive will hold their next face to face meeting in Beijing, in April, to coincide with the Chinese Medical Doctors Association conference, at which over 5,000 delegates are expected to attend. I look forward to seeing all of my WONCA Executive colleagues there.

Donald Li
WONCA President