Primary healthcare (PHC) principles provide a framework for strengthening the healthcare system to tackle increasing and diversifying health needs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Currently, PHC systems in LMICs require expanded care capabilities in order to deal with noncommunicable diseases and injuries, including emergency conditions. In this article, we discuss the possibility of applying PHC principles to emergency care in LMICs and integrating emergency care into PHC; such principles include providing first points of contact with healthcare through nonprofessional providers close to communities in order to improve accessibility, providing high-quality (i.e., comprehensive, coordinated, and continuous) primary care, and addressing primary causes of ill-health through community empowerment. These principles are applicable to emergency care, which has the same attributes: it also requires increasing first points of contact through layperson first aid and the ambulance system, and it also provides comprehensive care for diverse diseases and injuries, with various facilities and personnel involved in its coordinated and continuous delivery; collective community actions also develop and strengthen the emergency care system, particularly through components outside the health sector (e.g., transport, communication, and mutual aid). Integrating emergency care into PHC could enhance the general health system and is more efficient than having separate systems.
Keywords: Primary healthcare; emergency care; low- and middle-income countries; strengthening healthcare system.
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