While the primary healthcare (PHC) services in Iran were appropriate to the needs of the population in the late 1970s and 1980s, the changing burden of disease and shifting demand patterns have rendered the existing PHC system no longer suitable for meeting current and emergent needs. This has serious implications for the PHC system in Iran, which has clearly succeeded in addressing high levels of communicable diseases, maternal deaths and infant mortality, but appears less well prepared to address the emerging challenges of noncommunicable diseases (NCD). We conducted a systematic review of the available literature in the past 10 years related to the PHC system in Iran to assess its weaknesses and challenges. This paper categorizes PHC system weaknesses from the studied articles into two groups: (i) those related to the key functions of PHC, and (ii) others, which refer to health system weaknesses existing with the current PHC model. Iran can draw on international experience and evidence regarding interventions, which can be used to develop an effective and responsive PHC system designed to address current and emerging needs, in particular the NCD burden.
Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.