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It is with immense sorrow that I have received news of the death of a renowned leader in Primary Health Care, Dr. Barbara Starfield, who died unexpectedly on 10 June at the age of 78.

On behalf of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and myself personally, I wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues.

Barbara Starfield focused her work on equity in health and on the impact of health services on health, especially primary and secondary care services. She played a key role in developing methodologies and tools, such as the Adjusted Clinical Groups System, the Primary Care Assessment Tools, and the CHIP tools for assessing adolescent and child health status.

Dr. Starfield obtained her medical degree from the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center, graduating with honors in 1959. That year she accepted an internship in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1962, she joined the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, where she received her master’s degree in public health and epidemiology.

Dr. Starfield obtained her medical degree from the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center, graduating with honors in 1959. That year she accepted an internship in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1962, she joined the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, where she received her master’s degree in public health and epidemiology.

Dr. Starfield authored two books that are now standard references in primary care: “Primary care: Concept, Evaluation” and “Primary care: Balancing Health Needs, Services and Technology”. She was a member of several government and professional committees, including the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine, serving on the board of the Institute.

Admired as a researcher, teacher, and mentor, one of her most outstanding achievements was as co-founder and first Chair of the International Society for Equity in Health, a scientific society that seeks to contribute through knowledge to the achievement of equitable access to health. I recall the meeting we arranged with Barbara and PAHO/WHO colleagues at a Union Station cafeteria in Washington, D.C. before she departed for Baltimore, to precisely discuss the idea of establishing this International Society for Equality in Health. This anecdote is a reflection of the dynamic and ever-active Barbara, who managed to find the time, even when she didn’t have it, to discuss and find ways to achieve equitable access to health.

Barbara was a great friend of PAHO/WHO and, thus, her passing is all the more painful. I must mention her enormous contribution to the PAHO/WHO Working Group on Primary Health Care, which she co-chaired along with Dr. Carissa Etienne. This Working Group prepared the PAHO/WHO position paper on Primary Health Care and collaborated in drafting the 2005 Declaration of Montevideo on the renewal of Primary Health Care.

Barbara’s extraordinary collaboration with PAHO did not end there; it continued until just a month ago, when she collaborated with us on a study on Primary Health Care in the Americas, especially in the Caribbean countries. She was the keynote speaker at the launching of this project in Barbados this past May.

Barbara’s passing is, without a doubt, a loss for the public health and equity community, and for those who firmly believe in the universal call to achieve HEALTH FOR ALL. In this the Americas’ house of health, we feel her presence and weep for her premature and unexpected departure.

Mirta Roses
Director

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 June 2011 08:07

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