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I n October 2008, more than 500 health leaders from 65 countries met in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at an international conference marking the 30th anniversary of the AlmaAta Declaration on primary health care. The participants exchanged experiences from the past three decades and renewed their commitment to the principles of primary health care as a way of strengthening health systems. The World Health Organization launched the World Health Report 2008, which also addressed the theme of primary health care, on the eve of the conference.

Their micronutrient needs are also higher, and they require adequate intake of iron, folate, vitamin A and iodine to ensure the health of both mother and infant. 350 Index of food commodity prices 1998–2000 = 100 Oils and fats 300 250 Dairy Cereals 200 Sugar 150 Meat 100 J J A S O N D J F M A M J 2007/2008 * The food commodity price indices displayed above are the weighted averages of price indices from a basket of basic goods under each commodity group. The weights are the average export trade shares for 1998–2000.

To be truly effective, however, and to move closer to meeting the Alma-Ata challenge of delivering primary health care for all, essential services for mothers and children require a supportive environment that safeguards and promotes their rights. Without actions to address gender discrimination, inequities and abuses that are perpetuated against women and girls in particular, actions in support of enhanced primary health care risk being 28 much less effective, sustainable or even possible. Consider, for example, the problem of low birthweight, which is a background factor in 70 per cent of neonatal deaths.

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