In what the World Health Organization termed as Health for All, the International Conference on Primary Health Care in 1978 expressed the need for health workers, urgent government action, and the world community to safeguard and support health for all. In order to achieve health for all people across the globe, the Conference made various declarations including health being an essential human right and a significant world-wide social goal. One of the critical aspects towards the achievement of this Health for All initiative is primary healthcare.
Declarations on Primary Health Care:
As an essential health care service, primary health care can be made universally accessible to people and families through the full participation of the community and at a cost that the community can afford ("Declaration of Alma-Ata," n.d.). Primary health care acts as the initial level of contact of people, families, and communities with the national health system that makes health care accessible. Therefore, it's an integral part of the national health system of a country and the overall economic and social development of the community.
The 1978 International Conference on Primary Health Care made various declarations regarding some vital aspects of this service. These aspects include primary health care reflecting and evolving from the political, socio-cultural, and economic characteristics and conditions of a country and its communities. The Conference also stated that primary health care addresses main health issues in the community by providing necessary services accordingly. Primary health care also includes creating awareness of the existing health problems, prevention and control methods, provision of necessary drugs, and suitable treatment of common diseases.
In addition to other declarations on various aspects of primary health care, the Conference stated that governments should develop national policies, action plans, and strategies to introduce and sustain primary health care. These strategies, policies, and action plans should be part of a comprehensive national health system developed in coordination with other relevant sectors. With the appropriate measures, the 1978 Conference declared that an acceptable level of health for all individuals across the globe can be achieved by the year 2000 through the complete and better utilization of resources in the world. Actually, the resolution invited the member states of the World Health Organization to individually and collectively formulate national and global strategies for the achievement of this goal ("Global Strategy for Health," n.d.).
Target 15 of Health for all Programme:
The importance of improving primary health care was later developed in the Health 21 Programme i.e. health for all in the 21st Century whose one constant aim is the accomplishment of full health potential for all. The two main objectives of the strategy is to promote and safeguard the health of people throughout their lives and to lessen the occurrences of main diseases while alleviating the suffering they bring ("Health 21 -- Health for All," 1998). While the strategy consists of twenty-one targets, it consists of four major action plans to ensure that its implementation is politically, socially, scientifically, and economically sustainable. These action plans include programs and investments for clinical care and health development, multi-sectorial strategies, integrated primary health care, and an inclusive health development process.
As Health 21 strategy has twenty-one various targets, target 15 is one of the critical strategy because of its focus on an integrated health sector. This target can be achieved through integrating primary health care and hospital services, which is supported by a health care system that is functionally and structurally more integrated. The provision of primary health care have incorporated the use of different approaches in different countries such as group practices, polyclinics, and single-handed practice. As a result of the use of different approaches, health care services are not only uncoordinated but they also consist of divided responsibilities across various authorities. Therefore, the full potential of primary health care to minimize several unnecessary hospital admissions hasn't been certainly realized ("Health 21, 1999, p. 118).
Based on the current approach, hospitals in many counties continue to dominate health care since they often provide treatment to patients who could be treated at the community level. As stated in target 15 of the Health for All Programme, individuals should have improved access to family- and community-oriented primary health care by 2010. The improved access of primary health care should be supported by a responsive and flexible hospital system.
Advantages of Primary Health Care in Achieving Health for All:
As stated in World Health Organization's Health for All Programme, primary health care is critical to the achievement of full health potential for all individuals and communities across the globe. This is largely because of the numerous advantages of primary health care in this process including & #8230;
Provision of Direction:
The full health potential for all individuals and communities requires governments to develop national strategies, policies and action plans as well as regional and global strategies based on the guiding principles of the Health for All Programme by WHO. Many countries that are signatories to the Declaration of Alma-Ata have since developed national and regional strategies towards the achievement of health for all individuals. Despite of these efforts, several countries are constantly seeking for measures to strengthen their national health systems. In the process of strengthening the national health systems in order to provide health for all, primary health care plays an integral role. Primary health care enables countries to achieve this goal by providing a clear and all-inclusive sense of direction in the process.
Improved Health and Social Outcomes:
The other advantage of primary health care in the realization of full health potential for both individuals and communities is that it results in improved health and social outcomes. This is largely because primary health care aligns promotion and prevention together with cure and care in an effective, secure, and socially productive way. Improved health and social outcomes are also achieved through primary health care because it provides the link between the population and the national health system.
In the process of achieving health for all based on the guiding principles of World Health Organization, primary health care has an advantage that is linked to its distinctive features. These distinctive features of primary health care include the fact that effectiveness and safety are not merely technical aspects since it focuses on an individual's health needs ("Primary Health Care," 2008, p. 43). Additional distinctive features of primary health care include the provision of people-oriented care as it's centered on understanding people, provision of integrated and comprehensive responses, and continuity of care. These distinctive features of primary health care act as advantages because person-centeredness, comprehensiveness, and continuity are necessary and critical to improved health outcomes.
How Primary Health Care Can Help to Achieve Health for All:
Based on the guiding principles of the World Health Organization, primary health care can help in achieving the goals of Health for All Strategy through various ways including:
Improving Accessibility and Outcomes:
One of the most common concerns in the health sector of many countries is the increasing gross inequality in people's health status. Furthermore, there is an unacceptable political, social, and economic gross inequality of people's health status between developed and developing countries (Bassett, 2006). Primary health care can help in achieving health for all people and communities by improving the accessibility of health care, especially at the community level rather than hospital admissions.
Primary health care achieves this by relocating the entry point to the health system from hospitals, outpatient departments, specialized clinics, and emergency units to settings that are closer to patients. The improvement of accessibility to comprehensive primary health care improves an individual's health outcomes (Montegut, 2007). As compared to increasing the number of specialists, increasing the ratio of primary care professionals is likely to result in additional improved health outcomes.
Primary health care can help achieve the World Health Organization's Health for All strategy through strong political commitments to these policies. Generally, there have been strong political commitments in various countries in achieving the goals of health for all as governments have endorsed these policies and strategies. These political commitments have resulted in the transformation of the current health services based on primary health care ("The World Health Report," 1998). The re-orientation of the existing health systems have resulted in the significant increases of various elements of primary health care across the globe.
Promoting Universal Coverage:
Since primary health care is centered on providing health services based on the needs and expectations of individuals, it can help in achieving health for all. Furthermore, it can help in the achievement of these goals through promoting universal coverage reforms that reduces social disparities and exclusion in health. According to the 2008 World Health Report, one of the major elements of primary health care is to achieve social protection and universal access for the purpose of improving health equity. Universal health coverage, which is critical to the achievement of health for all, can only be realized through health equity. Primary health…