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1.  Exploring health stakeholders' perceptions on moving towards comprehensive primary health care to address childhood malnutrition in Iran: a qualitative study 
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.
PMCID: PMC2649918  PMID: 19236720
2.  Assessment of the Knowledge of Primary Health Care Staff about Primary Health Care 
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.
PMCID: PMC3437150  PMID: 23012208
Primary health care; Alma Ata; General practitioners; Nurses
3.  Closing the health equity gap: evidence-based strategies for primary health care organizations 
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.
PMCID: PMC3570279  PMID: 23061433
Primary health care; Health equity; Health inequity; Marginalized populations; Vulnerable populations; Aboriginal people; Structural violence; Trauma-informed care; Qualitative research; Ethnographic methods
4.  Primary Health Care: a strategic framework for the prevention and control of chronic non-communicable disease 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.24504.
In 2014, chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represent the leading causes of global mortality and disability. Government-level concern, and resulting policy changes, are manifesting. However, there continues to be a paucity of guiding frameworks for legislative measures. The surge of NCDs will require strong and effective governance responses, particularly in low and middle-income countries. Simultaneously following the 2008 World Health Report, there has recently been renewed interest in Primary Health Care (PHC) and its core principles. With this, has come strengthened support for revitalizing this approach, which aims for equitable and cost-effective population-health attainment. In this light and reflecting recent major global reports, declarations and events, we propose and critique a PHC approach to NCDs, highlighting PHC, with its core themes, as a valuable guiding framework for health promotion and policy addressing this group of diseases.
PMCID: PMC4122819  PMID: 25095779
PHC; NCDs; LMICs; integrated approach; health policies; health promotion
5.  The World Health Report 2008 – Primary Healthcare: How Wide Is the Gap between Its Agenda and Implementation in 12 High-Income Health Systems? 
Healthcare Policy  2012;7(3):38-58.
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.
PMCID: PMC3298021  PMID: 23372580
6.  Integration of community home based care programmes within national primary health care revitalisation strategies in Ethiopia, Malawi, South-Africa and Zambia: a comparative assessment 
In 2008, the WHO facilitated the primary health care (PHC) revitalisation agenda. The purpose was to strengthen African health systems in order to address communicable and non-communicable diseases. Our aim was to assess the position of civil society-led community home based care programmes (CHBC), which serve the needs of patients with HIV, within this agenda. We examined how their roles and place in health systems evolved, and the prospects for these programmes in national policies and strategies to revitalise PHC, as new health care demands arise.
The study was conducted in Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia and used an historical, comparative research design. We used purposive sampling in the selection of countries and case studies of CHBC programmes. Qualitative methods included semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, service observation and community mapping exercises. Quantitative methods included questionnaire surveys.
The capacity of PHC services increased rapidly in the mid-to-late 2000s via CHBC programme facilitation of community mobilisation and participation in primary care services and the exceptional investments for HIV/AIDS. CHBC programmes diversified their services in response to the changing health and social care needs of patients on lifelong anti-retroviral therapy and there is a general trend to extend service delivery beyond HIV-infected patients. We observed similarities in the way the governments of South Africa, Malawi and Zambia are integrating CHBC programmes into PHC by making PHC facilities the focal point for management and state-paid community health workers responsible for the supervision of community-based activities. Contextual differences were found between Ethiopia, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia, whereby the policy direction of the latter two countries is to have in place structures and mechanisms that actively connect health and social welfare interventions from governmental and non-governmental actors.
Countries may differ in the means to integrate and co-ordinate government and civil society agencies but the net result is expanded PHC capacity. In a context of changing health care demands, CHBC programmes are a vital mechanism for the delivery of primary health and social welfare services.
PMCID: PMC4279695  PMID: 25499098
Community and home based care; Primary health care; Integration; Co-ordination; Integrated care; Chronic care
7.  Differential utilization of primary health care services among older immigrants and Norwegians: a register-based comparative study in Norway 
Aging in an unfamiliar landscape can pose health challenges for the growing numbers of immigrants and their health care providers. Therefore, better understanding of how different immigrant groups use Primary Health Care (PHC), and the underlying factors that explain utilization is needed to provide adequate and appropriate public health responses. Our aim is to describe and compare the use of PHC between elderly immigrants and Norwegians.
Registry-based study using merged data from the National Population Register and the Norwegian Health Economics Administration database. All 50 year old or older Norwegians with both parents from Norway (1,516,012) and immigrants with both parents from abroad (89,861) registered in Norway in 2008 were included. Descriptive analyses were carried out. Immigrants were categorised according to country of origin, reason for migration and length of stay in Norway. Binary logistic regression analyses were conducted to study the utilization of PHC comparing Norwegians and immigrants, and to assess associations between utilization and both length of stay and reason for immigration, adjusting for other socioeconomic variables.
A higher proportion of Norwegians used PHC services compared to immigrants. While immigrants from high-income countries used PHC less than Norwegians disregarding age (OR from 0.65 to 0.92 depending on age group), they had similar number of diagnoses when in contact with PHC. Among immigrants from other countries, however, those 50 to 65 years old used PHC services more often (OR 1.22) than Norwegians and had higher comorbidity levels, but this pattern was reversed for older adults (OR 0.56 to 0.47 for 66-80 and 80+ years respectively). For all immigrants, utilization of PHC increased with longer stay in Norway and was higher for refugees (1.67 to 1.90) but lower for labour immigrants (0.33 to 0.45) compared to immigrants for family reunification. However, adjustment for education and income levels reduced most differences between groups.
Immigrants’ lower utilization of PHC services might reflect better health among immigrants, but it could also be due to barriers to access that pose public health challenges. The heterogeneity of life courses and migration trajectories should be taken into account when developing public policies.
PMCID: PMC4245733  PMID: 25424647
Immigrant; Primary care; Primary health care use; Health services; Norway
8.  Enhancing measurement of primary health care indicators using an equity lens: An ethnographic study 
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.
PMCID: PMC3182883  PMID: 21892956
9.  Role of Primary Health Care in Ensuring Access to Medicines 
Croatian Medical Journal  2010;51(3):181-190.
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.
PMCID: PMC2897088  PMID: 20564760
10.  ‘It’s the sense of responsibility that keeps you going’: stories and experiences of participation from rural community health workers in Guatemala 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):18.
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.
PMCID: PMC3464661  PMID: 22958409
Community health workers; Community participation; Guatemala; Primary Health Care; Alma-Ata declaration
11.  Localization of health systems in low- and middle-income countries in response to long-term increases in energy prices 
External challenges to health systems, such as those caused by global economic, social and environmental changes, have received little attention in recent debates on health systems’ performance in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). One such challenge in coming years will be increasing prices for petroleum-based products as production from conventional petroleum reserves peaks and demand steadily increases in rapidly-growing LMICs. Health systems are significant consumers of fossil fuels in the form of petroleum-based medical supplies; transportation of goods, personnel and patients; and fuel for lighting, heating, cooling and medical equipment. Long-term increases in petroleum prices in the global market will have potentially devastating effects on health sectors in LMICs who already struggle to deliver services to remote parts of their catchment areas. We propose the concept of “localization,” originating in the environmental sustainability literature, as one element of response to these challenges. Localization assigns people at the local level a greater role in the production of goods and services, thereby decreasing reliance on fossil fuels and other external inputs. Effective localization will require changes to governance structures within the health sector in LMICs, empowering local communities to participate in their own health in ways that have remained elusive since this goal was first put forth in the Alma-Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care in 1978. Experiences with decentralization policies in the decades following Alma-Ata offer lessons on defining roles and responsibilities, building capacity at the local level, and designing appropriate policies to target inequities, all of which can guide health systems to adapt to a changing environmental and energy landscape.
PMCID: PMC3826843  PMID: 24199690
Health systems reform; Climate change; Decentralization; Rural health; Localization; Access to care; Developing countries
12.  Unfulfilled expectations to services offered at primary health care facilities: Experiences of caretakers of underfive children in rural Tanzania 
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.
PMCID: PMC3420314  PMID: 22697458
13.  Perceptions of quality in primary health care: perspectives of patients and professionals based on focus group discussions 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:128.
The EUprimecare project-team assessed the perception of primary health care (PHC) professionals and patients on quality of organization of PHC systems in the participating countries: Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Spain. This article presents the aggregated opinions, expectations and priorities of patients and professionals along some main dimensions of quality in primary health care, such as access, equity, appropriateness and patient- centeredness.
The focus group technique was applied in the study as a qualitative research method for exploration of attitudes regarding the health care system and health service. Discussions were addressing the topics of: general aspects of quality in primary health care; possibilities to receive/provide PHC services based on both parties needs; determinant factors of accessibility to PHC services; patient centeredness. The data sets collected during the focus group discussions were evaluated using the method of thematic analysis.
There were 14 focus groups in total: a professional and a patient group in each of the seven partner countries. Findings of the thematic analysis were summarized along the following dimensions: access and equity, appropriateness (coordination, continuity, competency and comprehensiveness) and patient centeredness.
This study shows perceptions and views of patients in interaction with PHC and opinion of professionals working in PHC. It serves as source of criteria with relevance to everyday practice and experience. The criteria mentioned by patients and by health care professionals which were considered determining factors of the quality in primary care were quite similar among the investigated countries. However, the perception and the level of tolerance regarding some of the criteria differed among EUprimecare countries. Among these dissimilar criteria we especially note the gate-keeping role of GPs, the importance of nurses' competency and the acceptance of waiting times. The impact of waiting time on patient satisfaction is obvious; the influence of equity and access to PHC services are more dependent on the equal distribution of settings and doctors in urban and rural area. Foreseen shortage of doctors is expected to have a substantial influence on patient satisfaction in the near future.
PMCID: PMC4083126  PMID: 24974196
Quality; Primary health care; Patient satisfaction; Gate-keeping
14.  The experience of community health workers training in Iran: a qualitative study 
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.
PMCID: PMC3475089  PMID: 22938138
Community health workers; Training; Primary health care
15.  Role of government in public health: Current scenario in India and future scope 
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.
PMCID: PMC3114612  PMID: 21694957
Health sector; intersectoral issues; public health; role of government
16.  To what extent does recurrent government health expenditure in Uganda reflect its policy priorities? 
The National Health Policy 2000 - 2009 and Health sector strategic plans I & II emphasized that Primary Health Care (PHC) would be the main strategy for national development and would be operationalized through provision of the minimum health care package. Commitment was to spend an increasing proportion of the health budget for the provision of the basic minimum package of health services which was interpreted to mean increasing spending at health centre level. This analysis was undertaken to gain a better understanding of changes in the way recurrent funding is allocated in the health sector in Uganda and to what extent it has been in line with agreed policy priorities.
Government recurrent wage and non-wage expenditures - based on annual releases by the Uganda Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development were compiled for the period 1997/1998 to financial year 2007/2008. Additional data was obtained from a series of Ministry of Health annual health sector reports as well as other reports. Data was verified by key government officials in Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and Ministry of Health. Analysis of expenditures was done at sector level, by the different levels in the health care system and the different levels of care.
There was a pronounced increase in the amount of funds released for recurrent expenditure over the review period fueled mainly by increases in the wage component. PHC services showed the greatest increase, increasing more than 70 times in ten years. At hospital level, expenditures remained fairly constant for the last 10 years with a slight reduction in the wage component.
The policy aspiration of increasing spending on PHC was attained but key aspects that would facilitate its realization were not addressed. At any given level of funding for the health sector, there is need to work out an optimal balance in investment in the different inputs to ensure efficiency in health spending. Equally important is the balance in investment between hospitals and health centers. There is a need to look comprehensively at what it takes to provide PHC services and invest accordingly.
PMCID: PMC2984410  PMID: 20961455
17.  The role of social participation in municipal-level health systems: the case of Palencia, Guatemala 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.20786.
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.
PMCID: PMC3772320  PMID: 24028936
social participation; primary health care; guatemala; alma ata; community participation; community health workers; palencia
18.  Interpreting the results of a modified gravity model: examining access to primary health care physicians in five Canadian provinces and territories 
Primary health care (PHC) encompasses an array of health and social services that focus on preventative, diagnostic, and basic care measures to maintain wellbeing and address illnesses. In Canada, PHC involves the provision of first-contact health care services by providers such as family physicians and general practitioners – collectively referred as PHC physicians here. Ensuring access is a key requirement of effective PHC delivery. This is because having access to PHC has been shown to positively impact a number of health outcomes.
We build on recent innovations in measuring potential spatial access to PHC physicians using geographic information systems (GIS) by running and then interpreting the findings of a modified gravity model. Elsewhere we have introduced the protocol for this model. In this article we run it for five selected Canadian provinces and territories. Our objectives are to present the results of the modified gravity model in order to: (1) understand how potential spatial access to PHC physicians can be interpreted in these Canadian jurisdictions, and (2) provide guidance regarding how findings of the modified gravity model should be interpreted in other analyses.
Regarding the first objective, two distinct spatial patterns emerge regarding potential spatial access to PHC physicians in the five selected Canadian provinces: (1) a clear north–south pattern, where southern areas have greater potential spatial access than northern areas; and (2) while gradients of potential spatial access exist in and around urban areas, access outside of densely-to-moderately populated areas is fairly binary. Regarding the second objective, we identify three principles that others can use to interpret the findings of the modified gravity model when used in other research contexts.
Future applications of the modified gravity model are needed in order to refine the recommendations we provide on interpreting its results. It is important that studies are undertaken that can help administrators, policy-makers, researchers, and others with characterizing the state of access to PHC, including potential spatial access. We encourage further research to be done using GIS in order to offer new, spatial perspectives on issues of access to health services given the increased recognition that the place-based nature of health services can benefit from the use of the capabilities of GIS to enhance the role that visualization plays in decision-making.
PMCID: PMC3522026  PMID: 22852816
19.  Integrated health care in Russia: to be or not to be? 
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.
PMCID: PMC1525341  PMID: 16896418
20.  Silently lost in a sea of infections 
Key messages
This article highlights some of the problems faced in working in resource poor settings. While the situation may differ from general practice in London, many of the same principles apply.
It highlights the importance of keeping hearing loss in mind when seeing children with other conditions.
It shows some of the principles in the Alma Ata declaration, such as the inequity in treatment between developed and developing world settings, health care rationing and the concept of health including social well-being.
Why this matters to me
This article relates to my time working in Pakistani Kashmir for a medical NGO in both primary and secondary care paediatrics. It describes trying to help a young girl with hearing loss. Particularly in a setting like this, you tend to prioritise the immediate problems (mostly infections in infants) and ignore other things however difficult they may be for the child and family. Most importantly I feel this article provides a different perspective, giving a first hand account of dealing with a difficult problem in a difficult setting.
While not directly related to general practice in London, this article provides many important and relevant messages. Neonatal hearing screening may mean that congenital hearing loss is picked up at birth, but other forms will present at a later stage and children who have not been screened (who missed the screening, parental refusal and those who came from overseas) still need to be considered.
Thirty years on from the Alma Ata conference the world is still blighted by many of the same problems. This personal account shows many of the difficulties spelt out by the declaration. In particular it highlights the persisting inequity in treatment between the developed and developing world.
It shows the importance of health including social well-being. The girl in this story lacked a disease, but being unable to hear, or more importantly communicate, would mean an inability to live an independent life in the future.
Another concept highlighted is health rationing, which is faced almost daily in any field of medicine. This is especially so in fragile states and war zones. External health funding goes predominantly to ‘fashionable’ diseases such as HIV, which has lead to organisations trying to promote the ‘neglected’ diseases, for example trypanosomiasis. Despite its debilitating effects hearing loss achieves even less attention than these.
PMCID: PMC4212741  PMID: 25949563
hearing loss
21.  Perceived challenges and opportunities arising from integration of mental health into primary care: a cross-sectional survey of primary health care workers in south-west Ethiopia 
The WHO’s mental health Gap Action Programme seeks to narrow the treatment gap for mental disorders by advocating integration of mental health into primary health care (PHC). This study aimed to assess the challenges and opportunities of this approach from the perspective of PHC workers in a sub-Saharan African country.
A facility-based cross-sectional survey of 151 PHC workers was conducted from 1st to 30th November 2011 in Jimma zone, south-west Ethiopia. A structured questionnaire was used to ask about past training and mental health experience, knowledge and attitudes towards mental disorders and provision of mental health care in PHC. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 12 heads of health facilities for more in-depth understanding.
Almost all PHC workers (96.0%) reported that mental health care was important in Ethiopia and the majority (66.9%) expressed interest in actually delivering mental health care. Higher levels of general health training (degree vs. diploma) and pre-service clinical exposure to mental health care were associated with more favourable attitudes. Knowledge about mental disorder diagnoses, symptoms and treatments was low. Almost half (45.0%) of PHC workers reported that supernatural factors were important causes of mental disorders. Health system and structural issues, such as poor medication supply, lack of rooms, time constraints, absence of specialist supervision and lack of treatment guidelines, were identified as challenges. Almost all PHC workers (96.7%) reported a need for more training, including a clinical attachment, in order to be able to deliver mental health care competently.
Despite acceptability to PHC workers, the feasibility of integrating mental health into PHC in this sub-Saharan African setting is limited by important gaps in PHC worker knowledge and expectations regarding mental health care, coupled with health system constraints. In addition to clinically-based refresher mental health training, expansion of the specialist mental health workforce may be needed to support integration in practice.
PMCID: PMC3946769  PMID: 24602215
Mental health; Mental disorders; Mental health care; Primary health care; Task shifting; Scale-up; Sub-Saharan Africa; Low-income country
22.  Implementing what works: a case study of integrated primary health care revitalisation in Timor-Leste 
Revitalising primary health care (PHC) and the need to reach MDG targets requires developing countries to adapt current evidence about effective health systems to their local context. Timor-Leste in one of the world’s newest developing nations, with high maternal and child mortality rates, malaria, TB and malnutrition. Mountainous terrain and lack of transport pose serious challenges for accessing health services and implementing preventive health strategies.
We conducted a non-systematic review of the literature and identified six components of an effective PHC system. These were mapped onto three countries’ PHC systems and present a case study from Timor-Leste’s Servisu Integrado du Saude Comunidade (SISCa) focussing on MDGs. Some of the challenges of implementing these into practice are shown through locally collected health system data.
An effective PHC system comprises 1) Strong leadership and government in human rights for health; 2) Prioritisation of cost-effective interventions; 3) Establishing an interactive and integrated culture of community engagement; 4) Providing an integrated continuum of care at the community level; 5) Supporting skilled and equipped health workers at all levels of the health system; 6) Creating a systems cycle of feedback using data to inform health care. The implementation case study from Timor-Leste (population 1 million) shows that in its third year, limited country-wide data had been collected and the SISCa program provided over half a million health interactions at the village level. However, only half of SISCa clinics were functional across the country. Attendances included not only pregnant women and children, but also adults and older community members. Development partners have played a key role in supporting this implementation process.
The SISCa program is a PHC model implementing current best practice to reach remote communities in a new developing country. Despite limited resources, village level healthcare and engagement can be achieved but takes a long-term commitment and partnership.
PMCID: PMC3943272  PMID: 24559229
23.  The social paediatrics initiative: a RICHER model of primary health care for at risk children and their families 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:158.
The Responsive Interdisciplinary Child-Community Health Education and Research (RICHER) initiative is an intersectoral and interdisciplinary community outreach primary health care (PHC) model. It is being undertaken in partnership with community based organizations in order to address identified gaps in the continuum of health services delivery for ‘at risk’ children and their families. As part of a larger study, this paper reports on whether the RICHER initiative is associated with increased: 1) access to health care for children and families with multiple forms of disadvantage and 2) patient-reported empowerment. This study provides the first examination of a model of delivering PHC, using a Social Paediatrics approach.
This was a mixed-methods study, using quantitative and qualitative approaches; it was undertaken in partnership with the community, both organizations and individual providers. Descriptive statistics, including logistic regression of patient survey data (n=86) and thematic analyses of patient interview data (n=7) were analyzed to examine the association between patient experiences with the RICHER initiative and parent-reported empowerment.
Respondents found communication with the provider clear, that the provider explained any test results in a way they could understand, and that the provider was compassionate and respectful. Analysis of the survey and in-depth interview data provide evidence that interpersonal communication, particularly the provider’s interpersonal style (e.g., being treated as an equal), was very important. Even after controlling for parents’ education and ethnicity, the provider’s interpersonal style remained positively associated with parent-reported empowerment (p<0.01).
This model of PHC delivery is unique in its purposeful and required partnerships between health care providers and community members. This study provides beginning evidence that RICHER can better meet the health and health care needs of people, especially those who are vulnerable due to multiple intersecting social determinants of health. Positive interpersonal communication from providers can play a key role in facilitating situations where individuals have an opportunity to experience success in managing their and their family’s health.
PMCID: PMC3507695  PMID: 23034058
Primary care; Public health; Vulnerable populations; Innovative model; Empowerment; Community engagement
24.  Putting People First: A Primary Health Care Success in Rural India 
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.
PMCID: PMC2940196  PMID: 20922117
Longitudinal perspective; Maharashtra; primary health care; reforms; three decades; WHO
25.  Integrating staff well-being into the Primary Health Care system: a case study in post-conflict Kosovo 
Conflict and Health  2015;9:21.
Staff well-being including stress awareness and stress management skills is usually not a priority in (mental) health policies. In Kosovo, the level of stress amongst primary health care (PHC) professionals is high because health professionals are part of the population seriously affected by conflict. The need to support staff and look after their well-being was recognised by the Director of the Centre for Development of Family Medicine, Head of Primary Care. In response, the Antares Foundation and the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT), in close cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, implemented an integrated psycho-social capacity building programme for PHC professionals.
This case-study describes how staff well-being was integrated into the PHC system in Kosovo. This was accomplished through raising awareness on staff well-being and stress management as well as strengthening knowledge of and skills in stress management. Eighteen national PHC staff were trained and more than a thousand family doctors and nurses attended stress management workshops. A steering committee consisting of key stakeholders was responsible for overseeing the execution of the programme. This steering committee successfully advocated for integration of staff well-being and stress management in the revised mental health strategy 2014–2020. The curriculum developed for the training was integrated in the professional staff development programme for family doctors and nurses. The effectiveness of the programme was assessed through an evaluation (including a survey among PHC professionals trained under the programme).
Evaluation findings showed that offering structured support, entailing the opportunity to discuss work related problems and providing tools to deal with stress related to work or personal life, helps staff to continue their professional tasks under challenging conditions. Evaluation findings suggest that results can be sustained through an integrated approach and involvement of key stakeholders. The case study may be of interest to policy makers involved in health reform processes and for managers implementing changes in complicated post conflict contexts. For both groups, acknowledgment of staff well-being could be a key ingredient in the motivation of staff and the quality of services.
PMCID: PMC4508763  PMID: 26199642
Staff well-being; Post conflict; Health reform; Mental health; Psycho-social support; Policy development; Stress management; Capacity building

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