Primary health care:
Primary health care is essential health care made accessible at a cost a country and community can afford, with methods that are practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable.
Reference: Alma Ata Declaration, WHO, Geneva, 1978
The Alma-Ata Declaration, also emphasises that everyone should have access to primary health care, and everyone should be involved in it. The primary health care approach encompasses the following key components: equity, community involvement/participation, intersectorality, appropriateness of technology and affordable costs.
As a set of activities, primary health care should include at the very least health education for individuals and the whole community on the size and nature of health problems, and on methods of preventing and controlling these problems. Other essential activities include the promotion of adequate supplies of food and proper nutrition; sufficient safe water and basicsanitation; maternal and child health care, including family planning; immunization; appropriate treatment of common diseases and injuries; and the provision of essential drugs.
Primary health care as defined above will do much to address many of the pre-requisites for health indicated earlier. In addition, at a very practical level, there is great scope for both planned and opportunistic health promotion through the day to day contact between primary health care personnel and individuals in their community. Through health education with clients, and advocacy on behalf of their community, PHC personnel are well placed both to support individual needs and to influence the policies and programmes that affect the health of the community.
The primary health care concept and themes are currently being reviewed by WHO.