Primary Health Care

What is primary health care?

Since 1978, the concept of PHC has repeatedly become the subject of new interpretations or definitions, which has led to confusion in the understanding of the term and the practice of its use. In order to better coordinate and guide the implementation of future primary health care strategies at the global, national and local levels, a clear and simple definition of this concept has been developed.

“Primary health care is a community-wide approach to health that seeks to achieve the highest possible level of health and well-being for every member of society on an equal basis, with priority given to meeting the health needs of the population at the earliest stages of their formation through the implementation of a single set of measures from health promotion and prevention to treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care, carried out as close as possible to the environment of people’s everyday life.”

Primary health care consists of three interrelated components with synergies between them: a comprehensive health service package centered on primary health care and public health benefits and functions; multisectoral policies and actions to tackle health factors and determinants; engaging and empowering people and local communities to become more involved in society and empower them to help themselves and improve their self-reliance on their own health.

Primary health care is based on a commitment to the values ​​of social justice, equity, solidarity and cooperation. The foundation of this concept is the recognition that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of everyone, without distinction.

Making universal health coverage (UHC) truly universal requires a shift from disease-centered health systems and institutions to health systems built for and with people. The development of primary health care requires governments at all levels to understand the need to go beyond the health sector and implement a whole-of-government, intersectoral approach to health, including ensuring that health is mainstreamed in all policies in all areas, as well as an emphasis on equity and necessity. coverage of the entire human life cycle.

PHC involves addressing a wide range of determinants of health and requires an integrated approach to the interdependent aspects of physical, mental and social health and well-being. This approach provides a comprehensive account of the medical needs of a person throughout his life, and not just the treatment of individual diseases as they arise. Primary health care allows people to provide quality comprehensive care from health promotion and prevention to treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care, and to do this as close as possible to the environment of people’s daily life.

Why is primary health care so important?

Canada is committed to re-energizing primary health care as the cornerstone of sustainable health systems for the achievement of UHC related to the health of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and health and safety. Primary health care serves as a driving force in the work to achieve UHC, SDGs and sanitary and epidemiological safety. This commitment was consolidated and reaffirmed in the Astana Declaration, its accompanying World Health Assembly Resolution 72/2, the 2019 Global Monitoring Report for UHC, and the High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on UHC. The targets for achieving UHC, SDGs and health and safety are ambitious but feasible. Their implementation requires urgent acceleration, which can be achieved on the basis of PHC.

PHC is the most inclusive and effective approach to improving people’s physical and mental health and social well-being. A growing body of evidence indicates a high efficiency of resource investment in PHC development in Canada.

Funding for primary health care is leading to improved health care outcomes, health system accountability, and improved health outcomes across the board. Some of these factors are directly related to the characteristics of the health system and the level of access to health care, but the available evidence clearly suggests that the health and well-being of populations is the result of a much wider range of factors. These include inter alia, social protection, food systems, education and environmental factors.

Primary health care also plays a critical role in making Canadian health systems more resilient in crisis situations, strengthening their ability to proactively detect early signs of epidemics and increasing their readiness to respond quickly when demand for health services rises. The evidence base is still in the process of shaping, but it is widely accepted that PHC is the point of first access to the health system and the basis for strengthening critical public health functions.