From the President: February 2018

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I am writing this on the first full week back in the office after the Christmas and New Year holidays - though by the time you read it we shall be closer to Valentine’s Day!

Whether we speak of love, new opportunities, or traditions and festivals, we know that life with its annual cycle is both predictable and uncertain. For most of us, we look back on a year at its end and are grateful if no major griefs or losses have occurred; and we recognise the joys and sorrows of those around us. It is a poignant time to think of those without homes or hearths – our papers seemed full of requests for donations for migrants, victims of conflict, the homeless, and the lonely. It is also a time when we think about the big picture - political events, impacts on the future, and what may happen in the next year.

Then we return to clinic, teaching, research, and the world of work, and our ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ may start to fade. But let us share ours as we move into 2018: - let’s continue to work towards
• Access to a family doctor for every family in the world
• A family medicine clinic in every community
• A family medicine training programme in every locality
• An academic family medicine unit in every medical school
• Strong primary health care in every system, which is accessible, affordable, acceptable, of high quality, and encourages relationships over time
• A meaningful universal health coverage package, which goes beyond minimal care into the full preventive, educative, curative, chronic caring and integrative model of family medicine.

On the academic front, we have an exciting new project for which we have got funding from AriadneLabs, who are closely associated with the Gates Foundation and were collaborators in the Primary Health Care Performance Initiative – this is a research gap mapping exercise trying to identify issues which matter to low and middle income countries (LMICs), and we have a chance here to examine this from the family medicine perspective. I am grateful to our WONCA Working Party on Research chair, Prof Felicity Goodyear Smith, for taking on this project, and also to other colleagues – and be sure many member organisations will be approached for their views and inputs in due course!

I had a project in my department some years ago which basically showed that much of the evidence recommended to family doctors and their teams was not based in primary health care – and it certainly may not yet be coming from Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) as the research infrastructure in many is so weak. Hence our ‘push’ in WONCA for academic expertise and for research networks where data in PHC settings can be meaningfully used for new knowledge, evidence of impacts, and service improvements.

I am delighted to see the wealth of work being put in for the Seoul conference, and encouraged by the slightly calmer political atmosphere on that side of the world.

Photo: Amanda Howe with (l to r) JK Lee, immediate past Asia Pacific region president; Young-Sik Kim, conference president; Lisa Seo, CEO Korean Academy of Family Medicine.

I am also delighted, though also challenged, by the prospect of at least a dozen WONCA trips between now and the end of my presidency in October. The only region I did not manage to reach in 2017 was IberoAmericana, but I shall be there this spring in their regional Cumbre and conference in Colombia. And I will be in all the other regions as well at some point in this year if all goes according to plan. There are a number of Regional and Working Party conferences in the first half of 2018, all of which look great. More here.

We shall be back at WHO in January and Geneva with more policy points to push. So WONCA business continues and hopefully will thrive – especially in this year where we mark the 40th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration, all eyes should be on us!

So thank you all again for all your great work in all corners of the earth: I hope you gain pleasure and recognition for it. I look forward to being in touch with many of you in 2018. Go well.

Amanda Howe