· PRIMARY HEALTH CARE CAN COVER THE MAJORITY OF A PERSON’S
HEALTH NEEDS THROUGHOUT THEIR LIFE INCLUDING PREVENTION, TREATMENT,
REHABILITATION AND PALLIATIVE CARE.
· AT LEAST HALF OF THE WORLD’S PEOPLE STILL LACK FULL
COVERAGE OF ESSENTIAL HEALTH SERVICES.
· A FIT-FOR-PURPOSE WORKFORCE IS ESSENTIAL TO DELIVER PRIMARY
HEALTH CARE, YET THE WORLD HAS AN ESTIMATED SHORTFALL OF 18 MILLION
· OF THE 30 COUNTRIES FOR WHICH DATA ARE AVAILABLE, ONLY 8
SPEND AT LEAST US$ 40 PER PERSON ON PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PER YEAR.
WHAT IS PRIMARY HEALTH CARE?
Primary health care is a whole-of-society approach to health and
well-being centred on the needs and preferences of individuals, families
and communities. It addresses the broader determinants of health and
focuses on the comprehensive and interrelated aspects of physical,
mental and social health and wellbeing.
It provides whole-person care for health needs throughout the lifespan,
not just for a set of specific diseases. Primary health care ensures
people receive comprehensive care – ranging from promotion and
prevention to treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care – as close
as feasible to people’s everyday environment.
Primary health care is rooted in a commitment to social justice and
equity and in the recognition of the fundamental right to the highest
attainable standard of health, as echoed in Article 25 of the Universal
Declaration on Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to a standard of
living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his
family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary
social services […]”.
The concept of primary health care has been repeatedly reinterpreted and
redefined. In some contexts, it has referred to the provision of
ambulatory or first-level of personal health care services. In other
contexts, primary health care has been understood as a set of priority
health interventions for low-income populations (also called selective
primary health care). Others have understood primary health care as an
essential component of human development, focusing on the economic,
social and political aspects.
WHO has developed a cohesive definition based on three components:
· meeting people’s health needs through comprehensive
promotive, protective, preventive, curative, rehabilitative, and
palliative care throughout the life course, strategically prioritizing
key health care services aimed at individuals and families through
primary care and the population through public health functions as the
central elements of integrated health services;
· systematically addressing the broader determinants of health
(including social, economic, environmental, as well as people’s
characteristics and behaviours) through evidence-informed public
policies and actions across all sectors; and
· empowering individuals, families, and communities to
optimize their health, as advocates for policies that promote and
protect health and well-being, as co-developers of health and social
services, and as self-carers and care-givers to others.
WHY IS PRIMARY HEALTH CARE IMPORTANT?
Renewing primary health care and placing it at the centre of efforts to
improve health and wellbeing are critical for three reasons:
· Primary health care is well-positioned to respond to rapid
economic, technological, and demographic changes, all of which impact
health and well-being. A recent analysis found that approximately half
of the gains in reducing child mortality from 1990 to 2010 were due to
factors outside the health sector (such as, water and sanitation,
education, economic growth). A primary health care approach draws in a
wide range of stakeholders to examine and change policies to address the
social, economic, environmental and commercial determinants of health
and well-being. Treating people and communities as key actors in the
production of their own health and well-being is critical for
understanding and responding to the complexities of our changing world.
· Primary health care has been proven to be a highly effective
and efficient way to address the main causes and risks of poor health
and well-being today, as well as handling the emerging challenges that
threaten health and well-being tomorrow. It has also been shown to be a
good value investment, as there is evidence that quality primary health
care reduces total healthcare costs and improves efficiency by reducing
hospital admissions. Addressing increasingly complex health needs calls
for a multisectoral approach that integrates health-promoting and
preventive policies, solutions that are responsive to communities, and
health services that are people-centred. Primary health care also
includes the key elements needed to improve health security and prevent
health threats such as epidemics and antimicrobial resistance, through
such measures as community engagement and education, rational
prescribing, and a core set of essential public health functions,
including surveillance. Strengthening systems at the community and
peripheral health facility level contributes to building resilience,
which is critical for withstanding shocks to the health system.
· Stronger primary health care is essential to achieving the
health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and universal health
coverage. It will contribute to the attainment of other goals beyond the
health goal (SDG3), including those on poverty, hunger, education,
gender equality, clean water and sanitation, work and economic growth,
reducing inequality and climate action.
WHO recognizes the central role of primary health care for achieving
health and well-being for all, at all ages. WHO works with countries
· Identify priority areas for improving health and
context-specific approaches which draw on the technical expertise across
· Support countries to develop inclusive policies, in country
leadership and health systems based on primary health care which promote
health equity and works towards achieving the Sustainable Development
Goals and universal health coverage.
· Address the wider inequity and social determinants of health
through multisectoral action.