In 1978, the Alma-Ata declaration on primary health care (PHC) recognized that the world’s health issues required more than just hospital-based and physician-centered policies. The declaration called for a paradigm change that would allow governments to provide essential care to their population in a universally acceptable manner. The figure of the community health worker (CHW) remains a central feature of participation within the PHC approach, and being a CHW is still considered to be an important way of participation within the health system.
This study explores how the values and personal motivation of community health workers influences their experience with this primary health care strategy in in the municipality of Palencia, Guatemala. To do this, we used an ethnographic approach and collected data in January-March of 2009 and 2010 by using participant observation and in-depth interviews.
We found that the CHWs in the municipality had a close working relationship with the mobile health team and with the community, and that their positions allowed them to develop leadership and teamwork skills that may prove useful in other community participation processes. The CHWs are motivated in their work and volunteerism is a key value in Palencia, but there is a lack of infrastructure and growth opportunities.
Attention should be paid to keeping the high levels of commitment and integration within the health team as well as keeping up supervision and economic funds for the program.
Community health workers; Community participation; Guatemala; Primary Health Care; Alma-Ata declaration
This chapter provides an overview of the role of primary care in the context of global health. Universal health coverage is a key priority for WHO and its member states, and provision of accessible and safe primary care is recognised as essential to meet this important international policy goal. Nevertheless, more than three decades after Alma Ata, the provision of primary health care remains inadequate, indicating that primary care has not received the priority it deserves, in many parts of the world. This is despite the proven health benefits that result from access to comprehensive primary health care. We highlight some examples of good practice and discuss the relevance of primary care in the context of health equity and cost-effectiveness. Challenges that influence the success of primary care include the availability of a qualified workforce, financing and system design and quality assurance and patient safety.
primary care; global health; universal health coverage; health equity
The orientation about Primary Health Care among staff working in the PHC centers was assessed. Staff members numbering 909 were studied. The main criteria for judging orientation were a working knowledge of the definition and elements of PHC in addition to knowledge of the meaning of the word Alma Ata. Differences of this knowledge depending on sex, age, spoken language, type of job, postgraduate experience, previous experience in PHC and previous training in PHC were assessed. The main findings of the study were that the correct definition of PHC was known by only 51.4%, functions of PHC by 62.6%, and what Alma Ata, means in terms of PHC was known by 76.2% of the staff. This knowledge was significantly better in females than males, non-Arabic speaking staff than those who spoke Arabic, General practitioners and nurses than other staff; it was better in those staff who had long postgraduate experience, previous experience or previous training in PHC.
In conclusion, the study reveals the current status of awareness of PHC staff of the implications of simple concepts of PHC and points to the importance of the orientation of staff towards these concepts in order to help them practice PHC effectively.
Primary health care; Alma Ata; General practitioners; Nurses
The World Health Report, 2008, contains a global review of primary health care on the 30th anniversary of the Declaration of Alma-Ata. The period covered by the study reported on here corresponds with that of the Report, allowing for a comparison of achievements and challenges in one primary health care centre vis-a-vis the WHO standards.
Materials and Methods:
This study uses qualitative and quantitative data from a rural primary care facility in Western Maharashtra, collected over three decades. It analyzes the four groups of reforms defined by WHO in the context of the achievements and challenges of the study facility.
According to the WHO Report, health systems in developing countries have not responded adequately to people’s needs. However, our in-depth observations revealed substantial progress in several areas, including in family planning, safe deliveries, immunization and health promotion. Satisfaction with services in the study area was high.
Adequate primary health care is possible, even when all recommended WHO reforms are not fully in place.
Longitudinal perspective; Maharashtra; primary health care; reforms; three decades; WHO
Positive Health of the communities could only be brought out through the interrelationship between conventional health sector and other development sectors. It was a dream that came true when World Health Organization (WHO) accepted Primary Health Care (PHC) as the major tool to achieve its proposed goal of Health For All (HFA) by 2000 A.D., but we could not succeed as expected. Now we have the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which place health at the heart of development but the achievements in health is still challenging. The literature search in this article has been conducted in Pub Med and Google scholar, with the aim to draw references to discuss the major health issues and ways to tackle them. The current article briefly narrates the burden and complexities of challenges faced by the present global health. Revisiting the concept of PHC and reaffirming our solidarity to this philosophy is the need of this hour.
Asia; Development goals; Millennium; Public health; Public health challenges; Primary healthcare
There is growing evidence that patients frequently bypass primary health care (PHC) facilities in favour of higher level hospitals regardless of substantial additional time and costs. Among the reasons given for bypassing are poor services (including lack of drugs and diagnostic facilities) and lack of trust in health workers. The World Health Report 2008 “PHC now more than ever” pointed to the importance of organizing health services around people’s needs and expectations as one of the four main issues of PHC reforms. There is limited documentation of user’s expectations to services offered at PHC facilities. The current study is a community extension of a hospital-based survey that showed a high bypassing frequency of PHC facilities among caretakers seeking care for their underfive children at two district hospitals. We aimed to explore caretakers’ perceptions and expectations to services offered at PHC facilities in their area with reference to their experiences seeking care at such facilities.
We conducted four community-based focus group discussions (FGD’s) with 47 caretakers of underfive children in Muheza district of Tanga region, Tanzania in October 2009.
Lack of clinical examinations and laboratory tests, combined with shortage of drugs and health workers, were common experiences. Across all the focus group discussions, unpleasant health workers’ behaviors, lack of urgency and unnecessary delays were major complaints. In some places, unauthorized fees reduced access to services.
The study revealed significant disappointments among caretakers with regard to the quality of services offered at PHC facilities in their areas, with implications for their utilization and proper functioning of the referral system. Practices regarding partial drugs administrations, skipping of injections, unofficial payments and consultations by unskilled health care providers need urgent action. There is also a need for proper accountability mechanisms to govern appropriate allocation and monitoring of health care resources and services in Tanzania.
Due to the multifaceted aspect of child malnutrition, a comprehensive approach, taking social factors into account, has been frequently recommended in health literature. The Alma-Ata declaration explicitly outlined comprehensive primary health care as an approach that addresses the social, economic and political causes of poor health and nutrition.
Iran as a signatory country to the Alma Ata Declaration has established primary health care since 1979 with significant progress on many health indicators during the last three decades. However, the primary health care system is still challenged to reduce inequity in conditions such as child malnutrition which trace back to social factors. This study aimed to explore the perceptions of the Iranian health stakeholders with respect to the Iranian primary health care performance and actions to move towards a comprehensive approach in addressing childhood malnutrition. Health stakeholders are defined as those who affect or can be affected by health system, for example health policy-makers, health providers or health service recipients.
Stakeholder analysis approach was undertaken using a qualitative research method. Different levels of stakeholders, including health policy-makers, health providers and community members were interviewed as either individuals or focus groups. Qualitative content analysis was used to interpret and compare/contrast the viewpoints of the study participants.
The results demonstrated that fundamental differences exist in the perceptions of different health stakeholders in the understanding of comprehensive notion and action. Health policy-makers mainly believed in the need for a secure health management environment and the necessity for a whole of the government approach to enhance collaborative action. Community health workers, on the other hand, indicated that staff motivation, advocacy and involvement are the main challenges need to be addressed. Turning to community stakeholders, greater emphasis has been placed on community capabilities, informal link with other social sectors based on trust and local initiatives.
This research provided a picture of the differences in the perceptions and values of different stakeholders with respect to primary health care concepts. The study suggests that a top-down approach, which still exists among health policy-makers, is a key obstacle that delays, and possibly worse, undermines the implementation of the comprehensive strategy codified by the Alma-Ata Declaration. A need to revitalise primary health care to use its full potential and to combine top-down and bottom-up approaches by narrowing the gap between perceptions of policy makers and those who provide and receive health-related services is crucial.
The new agenda for Public Health in India includes the epidemiological transition, demographical transition, environmental changes and social determinants of health. Based on the principles outlined at Alma-Ata in 1978, there is an urgent call for revitalizing primary health care in order to meet these challenges. The role of the government in influencing population health is not limited within the health sector but also by various sectors outside the health systems. This article is a literature review of the existing government machinery for public health needs in India, its success, limitations and future scope. Health system strengthening, human resource development and capacity building and regulation in public health are important areas within the health sector. Contribution to health of a population also derives from social determinants of health like living conditions, nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation, education, early child development and social security measures. Population stabilization, gender mainstreaming and empowerment, reducing the impact of climate change and disasters on health, improving community participation and governance issues are other important areas for action. Making public health a shared value across the various sectors is a politically challenging strategy, but such collective action is crucial.
Health sector; intersectoral issues; public health; role of government
The World Health Organization's 2008 report asserted that the focus on primary healthcare (PHC) within health systems should increase, with four sets of reforms required. The WHO's PHC advocacy is well founded, yet its report is a policy document that fails to address adoption and implementation questions within WHO member countries. This paper examines the prospects for the WHO PHC agenda in 12 high-income health systems from Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America, comparing performances against the WHO agenda.
A health policy specialist on each of the 12 systems sketched policy activities in each of the four areas of concern to the WHO: (a) whether there is universal coverage, (b) service delivery reforms to build a PHC-oriented system, (c) reforms integrating public health initiatives into PHC settings and (d) leadership promoting dialogue among stakeholders.
All 12 systems demonstrate considerable gaps between the actual status of PHC and the WHO vision when assessed in terms of the four WHO reform dimensions, although many initiatives to enhance PHC have been implemented. Institutional arrangements pose significant barriers to PHC reform as envisioned by the WHO.
PHC reform requires more attention from policy makers. Meanwhile, the WHO PHC report is perhaps too idealistic and fails to address the fundamentals for successful policy adoption and implementation within member countries.
International evidence shows that enhancement of primary health care (PHC) services for disadvantaged populations is essential to reducing health and health care inequities. However, little is known about how to enhance equity at the organizational level within the PHC sector. Drawing on research conducted at two PHC Centres in Canada whose explicit mandates are to provide services to marginalized populations, the purpose of this paper is to discuss (a) the key dimensions of equity-oriented services to guide PHC organizations, and (b) strategies for operationalizing equity-oriented PHC services, particularly for marginalized populations.
The PHC Centres are located in two cities within urban neighborhoods recognized as among the poorest in Canada. Using a mixed methods ethnographic design, data were collected through intensive immersion in the Centres, and included: (a) in-depth interviews with a total of 114 participants (73 patients; 41 staff), (b) over 900 hours of participant observation, and (c) an analysis of key organizational documents, which shed light on the policy and funding environments.
Through our analysis, we identified four key dimensions of equity-oriented PHC services: inequity-responsive care; trauma- and violence-informed care; contextually-tailored care; and culturally-competent care. The operationalization of these key dimensions are identified as 10 strategies that intersect to optimize the effectiveness of PHC services, particularly through improvements in the quality of care, an improved 'fit' between people's needs and services, enhanced trust and engagement by patients, and a shift from crisis-oriented care to continuity of care. Using illustrative examples from the data, these strategies are discussed to illuminate their relevance at three inter-related levels: organizational, clinical programming, and patient-provider interactions.
These evidence- and theoretically-informed key dimensions and strategies provide direction for PHC organizations aiming to redress the increasing levels of health and health care inequities across population groups. The findings provide a framework for conceptualizing and operationalizing the essential elements of equity-oriented PHC services when working with marginalized populations, and will have broad application to a wide range of settings, contexts and jurisdictions. Future research is needed to link these strategies to quantifiable process and outcome measures, and to test their impact in diverse PHC settings.
Primary health care; Health equity; Health inequity; Marginalized populations; Vulnerable populations; Aboriginal people; Structural violence; Trauma-informed care; Qualitative research; Ethnographic methods
The role of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in improving access to basic healthcare services, and mobilising community actions on health is broadly recognised. The Primary Health Care (PHC) approach, identified in the Alma Ata conference in 1978, stressed the role of CHWs in addressing community health needs. Training of CHWs is one of the key aspects that generally seeks to develop new knowledge and skills related to specific tasks and to increase CHWs’ capacity to communicate with and serve local people. This study aimed to analyse the CHW training process in Iran and how different components of training have impacted on CHW performance and satisfaction.
Data were collected from both primary and secondary sources. Training policies were reviewed using available policy documents, training materials and other relevant documents at national and provincial levels. Documentary analysis was supplemented by individual interviews with ninety-one Iranian CHWs from 18 provinces representing a broad range of age, work experience and educational levels, both male and female.
Recognition of the CHW program and their training in the national health planning and financing facilitates the implementation and sustainability of the program. The existence of specialised training centres managed by district health network provides an appropriate training environment that delivers comprehensive training and increases CHWs’ knowledge, skills and motivation to serve local communities. Changes in training content over time reflect an increasing number of programs integrated into PHC, complicating the work expected of CHWs. In-service training courses need to address better local needs.
Although CHW programs vary by country and context, the CHW training program in Iran offers transferable lessons for countries intending to improve training as one of the key elements in their CHW program.
Community health workers; Training; Primary health care
One important goal of strengthening and renewal in primary healthcare (PHC) is achieving health equity, particularly for vulnerable populations. There has been a flurry of international activity toward the establishment of indicators relevant to measuring and monitoring PHC. Yet, little attention has been paid to whether current indicators: 1) are sensitive enough to detect inequities in processes or outcomes of care, particularly in relation to the health needs of vulnerable groups or 2) adequately capture the complexity of delivering PHC services across diverse groups. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the discourse regarding what ought to be considered a PHC indicator and to provide some concrete examples illustrating the need for modification and development of new indicators given the goal of PHC achieving health equity.
Within the context of a larger study of PHC delivery at two Health Centers serving people facing multiple disadvantages, a mixed methods ethnographic design was used. Three sets of data collected included: (a) participant observation data focused on the processes of PHC delivery, (b) interviews with Health Center staff, and (c) interviews with patients.
Thematic analysis suggests there is a disjuncture between clinical work addressing the complex needs of patients facing multiple vulnerabilities such as extreme levels of poverty, multiple chronic conditions, and lack of housing and extant indicators and how they are measured. Items could better measure and monitor performance at the management level including, what is delivered (e.g., focus on social determinants of health) and how services are delivered to socially disadvantaged populations (e.g., effective use of space, expectation for all staff to have welcoming and mutually respectful interactions). New indicators must be developed to capture inputs (e.g., stability of funding sources) and outputs (e.g., whole person care) in ways that better align with care provided to marginalized populations.
The current emphasis on achieving greater equity through PHC, the continued calls for the renewal and strengthening of PHC, and the use of monitoring and performance indicators highlight the relevance of ensuring that there are more accurate methods to capture the complex work of PHC organizations.
Primary health care (PHC) is a new concept in the health field. Its objective is to deliver integrated health service (curative and preventive). The Alama-Ata conference in 1978 urged countries to adopt the PHC approach to promote the health of all people. The expansion of PHC created the need for various types of evaluations (structure process and outcome).
The aim, of this study is to assess PHC in Riyadh in terms of structure and outcome. The study was conducted at three PHC centers (A, B & C). The samples of the study included 300 consumers. Two instruments were used to collect data. Instrument I is an assessment sheet measuring resources in terms of availability and quality. Instrument II is a 4 pointlikert scale measuring consumer satisfaction. Validity and reliability were established before data collection. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used.
The results show that the centers’ human resources do not measure up to the ideal standards, particularly those in center C. The clinical support areas are under-equipped in centers A and C. The facilities in the three centers are inadequate. The Majority of the consumers studied were female Saudis, illiterates and housewives. The majority of the consumers were satisfied with the services, acid no differences were found between Saudis and non-Saudis.
Primary Health Care; Consumer Satisfaction
Adequate resource allocation is an important factor to ensure equity in health care. Previous reimbursement models have been based on age, gender and socioeconomic factors. An explanatory model based on individual need of primary health care (PHC) has not yet been used in Sweden to allocate resources. The aim of this study was to examine to what extent the ACG case-mix system could explain concurrent costs in Swedish PHC.
Diagnoses were obtained from electronic PHC records of inhabitants in Blekinge County (approx. 150,000) listed with public PHC (approx. 120,000) for three consecutive years, 2004-2006. The inhabitants were then classified into six different resource utilization bands (RUB) using the ACG case-mix system. The mean costs for primary health care were calculated for each RUB and year. Using linear regression models and log-cost as dependent variable the adjusted R2 was calculated in the unadjusted model (gender) and in consecutive models where age, listing with specific PHC and RUB were added. In an additional model the ACG groups were added.
Gender, age and listing with specific PHC explained 14.48-14.88% of the variance in individual costs for PHC. By also adding information on level of co-morbidity, as measured by the ACG case-mix system, to specific PHC the adjusted R2 increased to 60.89-63.41%.
The ACG case-mix system explains patient costs in primary care to a high degree. Age and gender are important explanatory factors, but most of the variance in concurrent patient costs was explained by the ACG case-mix system.
Over the past years, Greece has undergone several endeavors aimed at modernizing and improving national health care services with a focus on PHC. However, the extent to which integrated primary health care has been achieved is still questioned.
This paper explores the extent to which integrated primary health care (PHC) is an issue in the current agenda of policy makers in Greece, reporting constraints and opportunities and highlighting the need for a policy perspective in developing integrated PHC in this Southern European country.
A systematic review in PubMed/Medline and SCOPUS, along with a hand search in selected Greek biomedical journals was undertaken to identify key papers, reports, editorials or opinion letters relevant to integrated health care.
Our systematic review identified 198 papers and 161 out of them were derived from electronic search. Fifty-three papers in total served the scope of this review and are shortly reported. A key finding is that the long-standing dominance of medical perspectives in Greek health policy has been paving the way towards vertical integration, pushing aside any discussions about horizontal or comprehensive integration of care.
Establishment of integrated PHC in Greece is still at its infancy, requiring major restructuring of the current national health system, as well as organizational culture changes. Moving towards a new policy-based model would bring this missing issue on the discussion table, facilitating further development.
integrated care; continuity; primary health care; policy; Greece
Social participation has been recognized as an important public health policy since the declaration of Alma-Ata presented it as one of the pillars of primary health care in 1978. Since then, there have been many adaptations to the original policy but participation in health is still seen as a means to make the health system more responsive to local health needs and as a way to bring the health sector and the community closer together.
To explore the role that social participation has in a municipal-level health system in Guatemala in order to inform future policies and programs.
Documentary analysis was used to study the context of participation in Guatemala. To do this, written records and accounts of Guatemalan history during the 20th century were reviewed. The fieldwork was carried out over 8 months and three field visits were conducted between early January of 2009 and late March of 2010. A total of 38 in-depth interviews with regional health authorities, district health authorities, community representatives, and community health workers (CHWs) were conducted. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.
Guatemala's armed civil struggle was framed in the cold war and the fight against communism. Locally, the war was fed by the growing social, political, and ethnic inequalities that existed in the country. The process of reconstructing the country's social fabric started with the signing of the peace agreements of 1996, and continued with the passing of the 2002 legal framework designed to promote decentralization through social participation. Today, Guatemala is a post-war society that is trying to foster participation in a context full of challenges for the population and for the institutions that promote it. In the municipality of Palencia, there are three different spaces for participation in health: the municipal-level health commission, in community-level social development councils, and in the CHW program. Each of these spaces has participants with specific roles and processes.
True participation and collaboration among can only be attained through the promotion and creation of meaningful partnerships between institutional stakeholders and community leaders, as well as with other stakeholders working at the community level. For this to happen, more structured support for the participation process in the form of clear policies, funding and capacity building is needed.
social participation; primary health care; guatemala; alma ata; community participation; community health workers; palencia
International commitments exist for the safeguarding of health and the prevention of ill health. One of the earliest commitments is the Declaration of Alma-Ata (1978), which provides 5 principles guiding primary health care: equity, community participation, health promotion, intersectoral collaboration and appropriate technology. These broadly applicable international commitments are premised on the World Health Organization's multifaceted definition of health. The environment is one sector in which these commitments to safeguarding health can be applied. Giant Mine, a contaminated former gold mine in the Northwest Territories, Canada, represents potential threats to all aspects of health. Strategies for managing such threats usually involve an obligation to engage the affected communities through consultation.
To examine the remediation and consultation process associated with Giant Mine within the context of commitments to safeguard health and well-being through adapting and applying the principles of primary health care.
Semi-structured interviews with purposively selected key informants representing government proponents and community members were conducted.
In reviewing themes which emerged from a series of interviews exploring the community consultation process for the remediation of Giant Mine, the principles guiding primary health were mapped to consultation in the North: (a) “equity” is the capacity to fairly and meaningfully participate in the consultation; (b) “community participation” is the right to engage in the process through reciprocal dialogue; (c) “health promotion” represents the need for continued information sharing towards awareness; (d) “intersectoral collaboration” signifies the importance of including all stakeholders; and (e) “appropriate technology” is the need to employ the best remediation actions relevant to the site and the community.
Within the context of mining remediation, these principles form an appropriate framework for viewing consultation as a means of meeting international obligations to safeguard health.
mining; remediation; contaminants; consultation; Giant Mine; community participation; Yellowknife; health; well-being
The purpose of this paper is to look at what has happened in Russia during the last ten years in the health care sector from the point of view of integrated care. This country, when it still was the leading subject of the Soviet Union, hosted in 1978 the Alma Ata Conference on Primary Health Care, which in many countries gave a strong boost on the development of multidisciplinary, community based care in a gate-keeper position. In Soviet Russia, PHC became marginalised and identical to poor level of care in remote areas of the country where people had very little choice and did not want to use it. Has the situation changed, and is Russia in practice addressing the problems created by the lack of integration, vertical treatment structures and over specialisation?
In addition to the data sources that are referred to in the text, this paper is based on “gray literature” available in project reports and governmental documents, and on the personal experiences of the authors, who have worked for long periods of time in the Russian Federation as international experts dealing with health sector reforms and health policy formulation.
Since India became a republic in 1951, there has been steady progress on all fronts of human and economic development. India has matured as the largest democracy in the world and and also earned the reputation of being one of the fastest growing economies during last two decades. However, the country remains challenged with several pressing issues which includes maintaining good health for second largest population in world. As a signatory of Alma Ata declaration, provision of primary health care has remained a priority area in the planning process. Although the targets of “Health for all by 2000” were missed, several programs are under implementation targeted towards achieving MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). Recent years shall be marked as very eventful from the perspective of health care reforms in India. For the first time a basic framework for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) has been proposed. A brief review of the programs and policies rolled out recently, provides us an insight into the future direction of the dynamic health system of India.
Clinical Establishment Act; Family Medicine; Health care reforms; Indian Public Health Standards; NABH; National Health Mission; New AIIMS Institutions; Medical Education Reforms; Twelfth five year plan; Universal Health Coverage; UCPMP
The nature and significance of equity and equality in relation to health and healthcare policy is discussed in the light of a recent article by Culyer. Culyer makes the following claims: (a) the importance of equity in relation to the provision of health care derives from the human need for health in order to flourish; and (b) for the sake of equity, equality of health among the members of particular political jurisdictions should be the aim of health policy. Both these claims are challenged in this paper.
The argument put forward is that it is only when needs arise and are met in particular contexts that need and equity are fused. The state and its agents and agencies should distribute what it distributes impartially, whatever it distributes. Whether or not equity applies to the distribution of healthcare services depends on how they are provided and not on their nature as "primary goods". Contrary to what Culyer suggests, a policy of trying to produce the outcome of health equality would be inequitable. It would not be impartial and it would fail to treat persons as persons ought to be treated.
In this paper we review two recent paradigmatic shifts and consider how a two-way flow in innovation has been critical to the emergence of new thinking and new practices. The first area relates to our understanding of the nature of public health systems and the shift from a medical paradigm to a more holistic paradigm which emphasises the social, economic and environmental origins of ill-health and looks to these as key arenas in which to tackle persistent inequalities in populations’ health experiences. In respect of this paradigmatic shift, it is argued, developing countries were in advance of their more developed counterparts. Specifically, the Alma Ata Declaration and the Primary Health Care Approach which was central to its implementation pre-figured elements of what was to be called in developed countries The New Public Health such as the need for greater community involvement and recognition of the importance of other sectors in determining health outcomes. But this paradigmatic shift added a new complexity to our understanding which made the identification of appropriate policy responses increasingly difficult. However, a parallel shift was taking place in the cognate field of operational research/systems analysis (OR/SA) which was adding greatly to our ability to analyse and to identify key points of intervention in complex systems. This led to the emergence of new techniques for problem structuring which overcame many of the limitations of formal mathematical models which characterised the old paradigm. In this paradigmatic shift developed countries have led the way, specifically in the new fields of Community Operational Research and Operational Research for Development, but only by drawing strongly on the experience and philosophies to be found in developing countries.
Public health; Systems analysis; Operational research; Reverse innovation
Strengthening primary healthcare systems is vital to improving health outcomes and reducing inequity. However, there are few tools and models available in published literature showing how primary care system strengthening can be achieved on a large scale. Challenges to strengthening primary healthcare (PHC) systems include the dispersion, diversity and relative independence of primary care providers; the scope and complexity of PHC; limited infrastructure available to support population health approaches; and the generally poor and fragmented state of PHC information systems.
Drawing on concepts of comprehensive PHC, integrated quality improvement (IQI) methods, system-based research networks, and system-based participatory action research, we describe a learning model for strengthening PHC that addresses these challenges. We describe the evolution of this model within the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary healthcare context, successes and challenges in its application, and key issues for further research.
IQI approaches combined with system-based participatory action research and system-based research networks offer potential to support program implementation and ongoing learning across a wide scope of primary healthcare practice and on a large scale. The Partnership Learning Model (PLM) can be seen as an integrated model for large-scale knowledge translation across the scope of priority aspects of PHC. With appropriate engagement of relevant stakeholders, the model may be applicable to a wide range of settings. In IQI, and in the PLM specifically, there is a clear role for research in contributing to refining and evaluating existing tools and processes, and in developing and trialling innovations. Achieving an appropriate balance between funding IQI activity as part of routine service delivery and funding IQI related research will be vital to developing and sustaining this type of PLM.
This paper draws together several different previously described concepts and extends the understanding of how PHC systems can be strengthened through systematic and partnership-based approaches. We describe a model developed from these concepts and its application in the Australian Indigenous primary healthcare context, and raise questions about sustainability and wider relevance of the model.
Health systems strengthening; Quality improvement; Comprehensive primary healthcare; Participatory; Partnership; Learning; Information
To examine ways of ensuring access to health services within the framework of primary health care (PHC), since the goal of PHC to make universal health care available to all people has become increasingly neglected amid emerging themes of globalization, trade, and foreign policy. From a public health point of view, we argue that the premise of PHC can unlock barriers to health care services and contribute greatly to determining collective health through the promotion of universal basic health services. PHC has the most sophisticated and organized infrastructure, theories, and political principles, with which it can deal adequately with the issues of inequity, inequality, and social injustice which emerge from negative economic externalities and neo-liberal economic policies. Addressing these issues, especially the complex social and political influences that restrict access to medicines, may require the integration of different health initiatives into PHC. Based on current systems, PHC remains the only conventional health delivery service that can deal with resilient public health problems adequately. However, to strengthen its ability to do so, we propose the revitalization of PHC to incorporate scholarship that promotes human rights, partnerships, research and development, advocacy, and national drug policies. The concept of PHC can improve access; however, this will require the urgent interplay among theoretical, practical, political, and sociological influences arising from the economic, social, and political determinants of ill health in an era of globalization.
More than three decades after the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata enshrined the goal of ‘health for all’, high-quality primary care services remain undelivered to the great majority of the world’s poor. This failure to effectively reach the most vulnerable populations has been, in part, a failure to develop and implement appropriate and effective primary care delivery models. This paper examines a root cause of these failures, namely that the inability to achieve clear and practical consensus around the scope and aims of primary care may be contributing to ongoing operational inertia. The present work also examines integrated models of care as a strategy to move beyond conceptual dissonance in primary care and toward implementation. Finally, this paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of a particular model, the World Health Organization’s Integrated Management of Adolescent and Adult Illness (IMAI), and its potential as a guidepost toward improving the quality of primary care delivery in poor settings.
Integration and integrated care may be an important approach in establishing a new paradigm of primary care delivery, though overall, current evidence is mixed. However, a number of successful specific examples illustrate the potential for clinical and service integration to positively impact patient care in primary care settings. One example deserving of further examination is the IMAI, developed by the World Health Organization as an operational model that integrates discrete vertical interventions into a comprehensive delivery system encompassing triage and screening, basic acute and chronic disease care, basic prevention and treatment services, and follow-up and referral guidelines. IMAI is an integrated model delivered at a single point-of-care using a standard approach to each patient based on the universal patient history and physical examination. The evidence base on IMAI is currently weak, but whether or not IMAI itself ultimately proves useful in advancing primary care delivery, it is these principles that should serve as the basis for developing a standard of integrated primary care delivery for adults and adolescents that can serve as the foundation for ongoing quality improvement.
As integrated primary care is the standard of care in the developed world, so too must we move toward implementing integrated models of primary care delivery in poorer settings. Models such as IMAI are an important first step in this evolution. A robust and sustained commitment to innovation, research and quality improvement will be required if integrated primary care delivery is to become a reality in developing world.
Primary care; Integrated management; Integration; Quality improvement; Health care delivery; Health systems; IMAI
Through the nearly three decades that have passed since the Alma Ata conference on Primary Health Care, a wide range of global health initiatives and ideas have been advocated to improve the health of people living in developing countries. The issues raised in the Primary Health Care concept, the Structural Adjustment Programmes and the Health Sector Reforms have all influenced health service delivery. Increasingly however, health systems in developing countries are being described as having collapsed Do the advocated frameworks contribute to this collapse through not adequately including population trust as a determinant of the revival of health services, or are they primarily designed to satisfy the values of other actors within the health care system? This article argues there is an urgent need to challenge common thinking on health care provision under extreme resource scarcity.
This article sets out to discuss and analyze the described collapse of health services through a brief case study on provision of Emergency Obstetric Care in Northern Tanzania.
The article argues that post the Alma Ata conference on Primary Health Care developments in global health initiatives have not been successful in incorporating population trust into the frameworks, instead focusing narrowly on expert-driven solutions through concepts such as prevention and interventions. The need for quantifiable results has pushed international policy makers and donors towards vertical programmes, intervention approaches, preventive services and quantity as the coverage parameter. Health systems have consequently been pushed away from generalized horizontal care, curative services and quality assurance, all important determinants of trust.
Trust can be restored, and to further this objective a new framework is proposed placing generalized services and individual curative care in the centre of the health sector policy domain. Preventive services are important, but should increasingly be handled by other sectors in a service focused health care system. To facilitate such a shift in focus we should acknowledge that limited resources are available and accept the conflict between population demand and expert opinion, with the aim of providing legitimate, accountable and trustworthy services through fair, deliberative, dynamic and incremental processes. A discussion of the acceptable level of quality, given the available resources, can then be conducted. The article presents for debate that an increased focus on quality and accountability to secure trust is an important precondition for enabling the political commitment to mobilize necessary resources to the health sector.