I cannot recall a time when so much focus has been placed on primary health care, or the lack thereof, as it is now. The global Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the ongoing struggle in many communities to address underlying health conditions before they lead to catastrophic outcomes. This is especially true in low-income and marginalized communities.
The concept of primary health care has been repeatedly reinterpreted and redefined. In some contexts, it is referred to as the provision of ambulatory or first-level personal health care services. In other contexts, primary health care is understood as a set of priority health interventions for low-income populations. Others consider primary health care to be an essential component of human development, focusing on the economic, social and political aspects.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a cohesive definition based on three components:
Meeting people’s health needs through comprehensive promotive, protective, preventive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care throughout the life course, strategically prioritizing key health care services aimed at individuals and families through primary care and the population through public health functions as the central elements of integrated health services;
Systematically addressing the broader determinants of health (including social, economic, environmental, as well as people’s characteristics and behaviors) through evidence-informed public policies and actions across all sectors; and
Empowering individuals, families, and communities to optimize their health, as advocates for policies that promote and protect health and well-being, as co-developers of health and social services, and as self-carers and care-givers to others.