Policy bite: Ways of working together – an example from Iberoamerica

April, 2018


Amanda Howe writes

As family doctors, we often face challenges of ‘scale’. Our clinics are local, we work in very different communities and circumstances, and our resources are often small compared with big hospitals or universities. This challenge can be helped by joining a national member organisation, and by being part of WONCA – because it gives us bigger networks for sharing expertise, ideas, and advocacy. Many of our family doctors then join our Working Parties, Special Interest groups, or Young Doctor Movements, in order to extend their own learning and interests.

When I attended the WONCA Iberoamerica region conference in Colombia in March, I also saw a new idea – different countries in the region all working together on programmes of work, and reporting their work in to the regional conference. This was used to inform delegates, but also to help the leaders in the Executive and the national country leaders in making their policies – useful for discussing issues with stakeholders. The region was using six specific themes for this programme of work, though these can be altered over time according to different priorities.

The themes were:-
1. Forty years of Alma Ata: family medicine and family health, a path to peace;
2. Research applied to the territories;
3. Economic impact of family medicine on health systems;
4. Family and community medicine as a source of mental health care;
5. Quaternary prevention: how to do and how to teach it;
6. Family and community medicine and the health of migrants.

Firm recommendations were made, and signed off as the ‘Cali letter’ (Cali is the city where the conference and political ‘summit’ were held). There was also substantial ministerial representation, with six different country level representatives, and a recommendation for further ministerial input.

As President, I was delighted to see the productivity, and in a region with more than 20 countries with formal membership there is both plenty of capacity but also a need for coordinated approaches. The six themes have people working on them from different countries, some of whom may also be active in WONCA Special Interest Groups (SIGs) - for example, the overdiagnosis theme. This adds value rather than competes, and the resources produced can be widely shared. I thought this was an exciting model, and congratulate those involved.

We always need to find ways of working better together – soon it will be the WHO annual assembly and we shall be liaising there with other stakeholders, both at country level and in terms of other non-governmental partners. I saw in Nigeria a discussion about the value of ‘group practice’ and the usefulness of joining forces to make both cost savings and be a stronger business player, while still keeping our own local face and contact with our patients. So there are many ways of working together!

Well done to all in WONCA who try new models, and make it work well for all.