Reviving Primary Health Care: The Key to Better Health Access for All

Primary Health Care (PHC) is a powerful tool to expand access to health services, reducing health inequalities and providing effective health care coverage across the globe. In recent years, there has been a considerable decline in the implementation of primary health care in various parts of the world. This article will discuss the reasons behind the decline of primary health care and will suggest ways to revive it.

What is Primary Health Care?
Primary health care is the first point of contact for individuals from the community, providing comprehensive, accessible, and affordable health care services closer to where people live and work. PHC programs usually have a proactive and preventative approach to healthcare, promoting health, and preventing conditions that cause health problems. PHC services include preventive care, treatment for acute and chronic illness, maternal and child health care, and palliative care, among many others.

Why has there been a decline in Primary Health Care services?
Despite the importance of primary health care, access to basic health care remain a challenge for millions of people, especially low-income families and rural populations. The decline in primary health care services can be attributed to several factors:

Lack of investment: Many countries have not made sufficient investment in primary health care, resulting in inadequate staffing, a lack of essential medicines and equipment, and inadequate infrastructure.

The rise of ‘curative-oriented’ care: In some countries, policymakers have been focused on hospitals and curative care while primary health care takes a back seat.

Poor management, governance, and accountability mechanisms: In some cases, primary health care facilities suffer from poor management and governance, leading to inadequate welfare for healthcare workers and even corruption.

Impact of Covid-19 pandemic: The pandemic has also negatively impacted primary health care services as resources, including funding, health workers, and protective equipment, have been drawn from primary care into Covid-19 response.

The Revival of Primary Health Care
There is no doubt that reviving primary health care will require a significant effort from governments, the private sector, and civil society. Below are some approaches that can be applied to revive primary health care.

Investment in PHC: Governments need to make substantial investments in primary health care to ensure that it offers essential health care services to all people. Investment is essential because without it, essential staffing, supplies, and infrastructure will be lacking.

Strengthening governance and accountability: Politicians and policy-makers should also be held accountable to ensure financial transparency, adequate coordination, and appropriate governance mechanisms.

Integration of primary health care with other health services: Primary care should be integrated with other healthcare services, including maternal health care and mental health care services. By doing so, individuals can access a complete range of healthcare services at a single point.

Inclusive policies: Policymakers should prioritize inclusive policies to expand coverage, especially to underserved populations, including women, children, and people living in rural areas.

Recruitment and retention of health workers: Finally, governments need to recruit and retain health workers, and ensure proper working conditions and welfare of health workers on the frontlines of delivering primary health care. These strategies can help to ensure that primary health care is more accessible to those in need.

Primary health care is the backbone of a robust and resilient health care system. To achieve universal health coverage and ensure that all people have access to essential health care services, reviving primary health care is essential. Governments, the private sector, and civil society need to work in collaboration to invest in primary health care, strengthen governance and accountability, integrate primary care with other healthcare services, adopt inclusive policies, and recruit and retain health workers. A strong primary health care system can help to ensure that everyone can have access to the basic healthcare services they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

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