On the 25th and 26th of October, 2018, the global health community came together in Astana, Kazakhstan, at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care to renew a commitment to primary health care (PHC) to achieve Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This date marks the 40th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration, a major milestone in the field of public health. To mark the occasion, the SDSN’s Thematic Network on Health for All has released Achieving SDG 3: Policy Brief Series.

Much has been achieved in the past four decades; infant and maternal mortalities have fallen significantly, and progress has been made in the fight against HIV and other epidemics. However, progress has been uneven both across and within countries, and a significant gap remains between the declaration’s aspirational vision and the current reality.

The 2030 Development Agenda and its 17 SDGs bring the spirit of Alma Ata back to life. High-quality PHC is critical to achieving universal health coverage (UHC), which, according to WHO, is the main landmark of SDG 3 and other health-related goals. With at least half of the world’s population not having full coverage of essential health services, and about 100 million people still being pushed into “extreme poverty” because they have to pay for health care, UHC means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need; from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care; without suffering financial hardship.

With this series of policy briefs, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s “Health for All” thematic group would like to add to the analysis of achievements and gaps still present on the road towards UHC and a comprehensive PHC implementation. PHC, as conceived by the Alma Ata Conference, refers to the principles of equity, community participation, and intersectoral action. In this regard, three of these policy briefs point to key topics such as public financing mechanisms, a workforce of professionalized community health workers, and the promise of new technology to increase access to and quality of care. These are all important tools to make primary care high-quality, accessible, continued, comprehensive, and coordinated. The other two briefs analyze the role of a “Health in All Policies” approach as a way to implement a multi-stakeholder, coherent, and intersectoral approach; and a case study of cities as an example of how to include health in a different sector’s policies, such as urban planning.

We hope this compilation of evidence and policy proposals will contribute to the comprehensive fulfilment of Agenda 2030 and its aspiration of a world that truly ensures healthy lives and promotes well-being for all at all ages.