Family Medicine & Primary Care Meeting Global Health Care Needs

Tasha Starks
Assistant Regional Director, Region II
2012 M.D./M.P.H. Candidate, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, College of Medicine

The 19th Annual World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians (WONCA) World Conference was held May 19th – 23rd, 2010 in Cancun, Mexico.  This meeting brought together the brightest and best minds from around the country focused on a common goal of improving the health of our world.  This meeting was an opportunity for many to share ideas, research, learn and to develop new paradigms as we forge ahead in the new millennium, to ensure primary care remains at the forefront of health care.

Primary care plays a major role in our health care structure; however, we must ensure that patients have access to preventive services in order to improve health care on a global level.  This remains problematic as a shortage of health care professionals often requires long distance travel to receive care.  In many communities, simple necessities, such as food and clean water are scarce.  Primary care stands at the forefront to make a difference internationally, with its foundation grounded in patient centered health care and social advocacy.  Family medicine and primary care have always focused on prevention of disease, from immunizations to embracing public health, now to addressing equity in our health care system.

As a second-year medical student, I was in awe of the dedication and commitment that the attendees of the WONCA conference evidenced during this meeting.  It was truly inspiring to hear people speak so passionately about the efforts being made in their countries to improve health care.  It was heartwarming to hear success stories about projects to improve sanitation, or to prevent child labor, or health care clinic setup.  Several speakers addressed the issue of the need for more primary care providers abroad. This issue is being addressed via opening of new medical schools or increasing class size at existing schools.  Many are offering community based education through rural tracks or opportunities for students to work in underserved areas.  At this meeting, there was no shortage of educational opportunities for students, residents, or young physicians.  Sessions ran the gamut from information about international opportunities for students to leadership development for young physicians.  Moreover, the wealth of information and resources shared at these meetings equipped attendees with the tools to return to their communities and utilize the information to make a difference in our world.

The WONCA World Conference is a perfect example of the diversity that exists in family medicine and primary care.  As attendees come from all around the world with different skills sets, different experiences, and different cultures, it will result with ideas blending together to support common goals of disease prevention and health promotion.   This organization continues to remain on the forefront of global improvement in health care.  The 2010 WONCA World conference reiterated the fact that primary care is not just a local entity, but a field that focuses on enhancing health care for our world.

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