News Learning from low income countries

Demystifying health care

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7475.1127 (Published 11 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1127
  1. Khabir Ahmad
  1. Karachi

    A pioneer of cheap drugs and low cost health care in Bangladesh, Zafrullah Chowdhury also helped to set up the People's Health Movement. Khabir Ahmad looks at what drives his radicalism

    Perhaps this is not the best time to talk to 62 year old Zafrullah Chowdhury about his innovative approaches to human development in one of the world's most populous poor countries. He and his colleagues at Gonoshasthaya Kendra (People's Health Centre), a non-governmental organisation he founded in Bangladesh in 1972, are busy coping with the flooding that has put half of Bangladesh under water and resulted in more than 700 deaths. Some 30 million people have become homeless, and an estimated 1.5 million people, mostly children, are at risk of malnutrition.

    “There is near starvation in the areas I just visited,” warns Chowdhury, whose organisation is providing health care and food to the affected communities.

    As a tireless campaigner for primary health care, Chowdhury greatly influenced the World Health Organization in drawing up the Alma Ata Declaration in 1978, which called for “Health For All by the Year 2000.” But more than 20 years later, frustrated by the world's “abject failure” to achieve the stated targets, he, his colleagues at the People's Health Centre, and friends …

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