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Global Health Histories Seminars: 2014’s Topics Unveiled

Posted on 21 January 2014

In 2014 the focus of the popular annual seminar series turns to the history of universal health coverage. And once again, people from all over the world will be able to register to listen and discuss the issues under consideration live over the internet.

WHO Headquarters photograph

The global movement for primary health care (PHC), as advocated by the World Health Organization and its sister UN agencies, represented a most ambitious effort to expand health coverage fairly around the world. Adopted in the declaration of the International Conference on Primary Health Care held in Alma Ata, USSR (now Almaty, Kazakhstan) in 1978, it became a core concept of the WHO’s goal of better health for all by the year 2000. The 2014 Global Health Histories seminar series will explore the development of universal health coverage in diverse contexts, the political and economic trends that effected the running of these schemes, and, not least, critical perspectives into the variety of links between structures of national universal healthcare and PHC.

Following the popular format of past series, 2014’s seminars will bring historians and social scientists from around the world together with WHO policy makers. The enduring goal is to demonstrate how understanding the history of health can help the global public health community to respond to the challenges of today. Seminars in 2014’s line-up will be held in the WHO library at WHO headquarters in Geneva, from 12:30 – 14:00 (Central European Time). Each event will also be broadcast live over the internet. By signing up for this (registration is free and on a first came first served basis) participants can listen to the talks, view the speakers’ PowerPoint presentations and, if they wish, even pose questions to the presenters and other discussants. Web links to complete the registration process will be made available closer to each seminar. Alternatively, send an email to to be added to the GHH mailing list.

2014’s series will commence on 26 February with a seminar featuring Professor Marcos Cueto (Fiocruz, Brazil) and Dr. Socrates Litsios (WHO), who will speak about the origins of the WHO’s primary health care programme. This seminar will also mark a significant milestone – the 75th GHH seminar. This number represents a superb achievement and commitment to the project. Established in late 2004, the series has grown and evolved, in the process covering numerous important and pressing subjects in global health. A large proportion of these seminars have been archived on the WHO GHH website and recently on York’s Centre for Global Health Histories’ YouTube page, with audio and presentations from the events available in many cases.

A full programme of 2014’s speakers and topics is listed below. Please note that whilst each seminar features and academic speaker and WHO official, owing to official commitments the WHO speakers will be confirmed closer to each seminar:

26 February - The Origins of Primary Health Care - Professor Marcos Cueto, Fiocruz & Dr. Socrates Litsios, WHO

12 March - Sri Lanka – An Example of Model Healthcare - Dr. Margaret Jones (University of York) & Dr. Susie Perera (Director, Organization Development, and Director Policy Analysis & Development, Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka)

23 April - Mexico: Uneven development and Primary Health Care - Dr. Gabriella Soto Laveaga (University of California Santa Barbara)

21 May - Nepal: Primary Health Care, Universal Health Coverage and Foreign Aid - Dr. Susan Heydon (University of Otago)

25 June - South Africa: Primary Health Care as a Harbinger of Democracy - Dr. Vanessa Noble (University of Kwa Zulu Natal)

22 October - The UK, NHS and Universal Health Coverage - Dr. Martin Gorsky (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

19 November - Civil registration: The anchor for Universal Health Coverage? - Professor Simon Szreter (University of Cambridge)

Of the series Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories and Professor in the History of Medicine at York's Department of History, said, “The expansion of equitable universal health coverage across the globe is a major priority for the World Health Organization. The Centre for Global Health Histories is extremely pleased, in the capacity of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Histories, to co-organise an annual event with the WHO Department for Knowledge Management and Sharing that will assist in meeting this goal. Detailed deliberations between Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO Assistant Director General for Health Systems and Innovation, Najeeb al-Shorbaji, the Director of WHO KMS, Hooman Momen, the Coordinator of WHO Press and WHO Global Health Histories, and ourselves have allowed us to come up with an exciting seminar programme and some wonderful speakers. The seminars presented by the academics and senior WHO officials, and the discussions which will result, are certain to provide access to significant amounts of useful data, insights into methodologies for policy design and evaluation, and ideas for effective public engagement about the uses and expansion of healthcare. As ever, these unique collaborations between academic and WHO partners is being generously supported by the Wellcome Trust, a major global charitable foundation.”

Dr Hooman Momen, the Coordinator of WHO Press and WHO Global Health Histories, added: “The Global Health History seminar series represents one of the longest running public seminar series to be held at WHO Geneva. With increasing interest throughout the organization we plan to build on our pilot work last year and involve more regional offices in hosting these seminars in 2014”

Further details about all upcoming seminars will be posted at and in due course – please keep checking back. You can also catch up with 2013’s entire series on the Centre for Global Health Histories’ YouTube page (

The Global Health Histories seminar series is a collaboration between the World Health Organization Department of Knowledge Management and Sharing and the Centre for Global Health Histories (CGHH), part of the Department of History and a constituent member of Humanities Research Centre at the University of York, generously funded by the Wellcome Trust.