As of 2005, the literature on the benefits of primary care oriented health systems was consistent in showing greater effectiveness, greater efficiency, and greater equity. In the ensuing five years, nothing changed that conclusion, but there is now greater understanding of the mechanisms by which the benefits of primary care are achieved. We now know that, within certain bounds, neither the wealth of a country nor the total number of health personnel are related to health levels. What counts is the existence of key features of health policy (Primary Health Care): universal financial coverage under government control or regulation, attempts to distribute resources equitably, comprehensiveness of services, and low or no copayments for primary care services. All of these, in combination, produce better primary care: greater first contact access and use, more person-focused care over time, greater range of services available and provided when needed, and coordination of care. The evidence is no longer confined mainly to industrialized countries, as new studies show it to be the case in middle and lower income countries. The endorsements of the World Health Organization (in the form of the reports of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health and the World Health Report of 2008, as well a number of other international commissions, reflect the widespread acceptance of the importance of primary health care. Primary health care can now be measured and assessed; all innovations and enhancements in it must serve its essential features in order to be useful.
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