The long term lessons from Alma Ata: addressing health literacy in Gloucestershire UK and how this is relevant internationally

Hugh looks at the founding principles of the WHO, the conclusions of Alma Ata, the Shanghai and Astana declarations and show how they have relevance to all communities and how, in common with all major advances in population health, we need to look ‘outside the box’ for answers. The best answers don’t involve medicine but action at a population level. If we are going to address the coming challenges we need to try to get into people’s heads, help them understand how well - by and large - we naturally tackle the challenges illness sets us and give people more control. Control without understanding will merely push up demand. Facts4Life helps children understand that they ‘own’ their health; exploring health and illness is a safe and healthy thing to do; we could all embrace a wider sense of normal which includes illness but doesn’t promote it. Illness is part of all our lives; and largely, avoiding it or recovering from it is our responsibility. Facts4Life aims to help children understand that this responsibility is not onerous, painful or difficult.

Hugh has fused his interests in the arts, philosophy and medicine over many years. After an extra year at medical school studying philosophy and psychology he spent several years working in hospital medicine until his outlook was profoundly altered by post-graduate training in tropical medicine. Here he learnt about the narrowness of traditional western medical teaching set against the wide context of international public health.

Rather than travelling with this new knowledge, he began applying his understanding immediately in inner city Bristol during his training as a GP. This was where Facts4Life was born – a unique approach to health literacy and resilience combining the expertise of multiple sectors.

The ideas within the project have developed and grown since, crucially supported by Hugh’s continuing commitment to his work in general practice. He learns as much about teaching from the educational team at Facts4Life as he does contribute medical ideas. The ability to bring together the professions of teaching and medicine continue to generate multiple mutual benefits, and Hugh has seen the nurturing approach of teachers profoundly alter his attitudes to the practice of medicine. This dynamic two-way process is now thriving, driven by Hugh’s commitment to enable the Facts4Life team to embed its ongoing learning in the worlds of both teaching and general practice to the benefit of all.