From the President: December 2022

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Home Visits

As a physician, I’ve always liked making house calls. They nurture the patient-doctor relationship. When meeting in the patient’s home context, we both recognize and share other aspects of ourselves. I find that the realities of my patients’ lives come more clearly into focus once I’ve met them where they live.

After two years of life saving isolation during the pandemic, of being deprived of meeting each other in person, our various types of ‘home visits’ carry a new poignancy. And an added enthusiasm. At this stage of the pandemic, everyone, all at once, seems eager to organize face-to-face meetings.

Now, in November and December, I’ve been invited to visit the ‘homes’ of four, far-flung WONCA regions. From my Scandinavian Norway, I’ve been to Central America’s Guatemala, North America’s Arizona, Africa’s Nigeria, and now, as I write, I’m heading to Indonesia’s Bali!

A brief travelogue:

Early in November, WONCA Iberoamericana held their Health Summit, the eighth in the region since 2007, this time in Guatemala. The region has developed a method for “La Cumbre”, which, by the way, means both the summit and a pinnacle in Spanish. I’ve now seen – in person – how worthwhile their Summit method would be for other WONCA regions as well.

The Summit was organized and conducted by the CIMF leadership in collaboration both with regional colleagues and various National Health authorities. The aim is to identify areas for development, and to agree on joint actions. Guatemala has neither training schemes for Family Medicine nor a basic system for Primary Health Care. During just two intense days, the Summit produced the “Guatemala Declaration” and an “Action Plan”.

What a privilege it was to participate in that intense process. I’m certain that the Summit built a momentum, helping to hold the Ministers of Health and Social Welfare accountable for the development of Primary Health Care. WONCA will play a task force role, exerting appropriate pressure from outside.

This conference was a case-in-point of the beauty of international solidarity in action.

And of the gift of ‘home visits’! My excursions into the countryside and to health facilities in the Capitol left me with the sort of insight into their need for Primary Health Care that only a face-to-face visit could have afforded.

Next stop, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.:

Some days after the Summit concluded, NAPCRG (North American Primary Care Research Group) celebrated its 50th anniversary. I was invited to give the opening keynote address. My ‘home visit’ to that context enabled me to recognize and discuss future collaboration opportunities between WONCA and NAPCRG. My visit confirmed what may not always be apparent: clinicians and researchers do share a common goal, and our constituencies do overlap to some degree. Quite a few NAPCRG members are based outside North America, and nourishing the potential synergies within the international Family Medicine community is a priority for both our organizations. It’s increasingly important to make the case for Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, and such joint actions are a powerful tool to increase the impact of our advocacy. Some NAPCRG members have already decided to attend the WONCA World Conference in Sydney next year, and I‘m looking forward to developing our relationship further.

On to Africa:

WONCA Africa held their conference at the end of November, in Abuja, Nigeria, where our CEO, Harris Lygidakis, and I represented WONCA World. Even before the conference, the program was extensive. We visited several health facilities and the Department of Family Medicine in Abuja. And, we were there to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of SOFPON, one of Nigeria’s three WONCA member organizations. Then began the regional conference’s impressive program. The enthusiasm among the participants was energizing to experience.

Thanks to this ‘home visit, we made contact with colleagues from African countries that do not have WONCA member organizations – yet. My hope is that we can develop these relationships, and grow our membership, including among Francophone African countries.

Another highlight from our days in Abuja was our meeting with Dame Pauline Tallen, Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development. She underlined the importance that Primary Health Care carries for her population of more than 200 million people. We agreed to take joint action during the annual, global campaign against gender-based violence, which started the day we left Nigeria.

Now, as I write, I’m on my way to Indonesia:

The final ‘home visit’ of this journey brings me to the WONCA Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Bali. Theirs is yet another carefully planned program. People have been working for months to make sure the Family Doctors of the region get to meet, learn from, and support each other. I am humbled and happy to be invited to experience the results of their efforts.

I hereby send a big Thank You to all our hosts! For your kind hospitality – and your work.

It has now been a year since the Executive Board and I took office. With one year left before we hand the baton on to our next WONCA relay team, this would be a good moment for each of us to take stock and review our work. What have we achieved? Where might we work even harder?

As we celebrate International Universal Health Coverage Day  this December 12th, we remember that ‘Health for All’ and ’A Family Doctor for Every Family’ are our goals. Primary Health Care is our political instrument as we work to improve people’s lives.

The title Dr. Akim Moses chose for his main keynote address at SOFPONs 25th anniversary celebration says it so well:

“The Family Physician: The Shepherd of Humane and Compassionate Care.”

Now, at the close of 2022, I send warm greetings to all of you, my fellow shepherds, Family Doctors of the World. Thank you for your support, your companionship, and your inspiration.