The contribution of family physicians to African health systems

Afr J Prim Health Care Fam Med. 2022 Jul 28;14(1):e1-e9. doi: 10.4102/phcfm.v14i1.3651.


Background: Africa is the last region to incorporate family physicians into its health systems. They are still a relatively new concept in many countries, small in numbers and deployed in a variety of ways. There is a need for more evidence on their contribution to African health systems to guide policymakers.

Aim: The aim of this study was to review the special collection of short reports on the contribution of family physicians to African health systems, published in the African Primary Health Care and Family Medicine Journal in 2021.

Method: Seventeen short reports from eight countries were qualitatively and thematically analysed in ATLAS.ti. Codes, which were derived inductively, were organised into categories according to the World Health Organization's primary health care monitoring framework.

Results: In the domain of health system determinants, family physicians made little contribution to governance, adjustment to population health needs or financing. They did, however, contribute substantially to the capacity of the health workforce, supply of equipment, functioning of the health information system and use of digital technologies. In the domain of service delivery, they strengthened the model of care and championed systems for improving the quality of care. This translated into improved availability and utilisation of services, core functions of primary care, quality of care and patient safety.

Conclusion: Family physicians described their important contribution to service delivery in district hospitals and primary health care. This should lead to improvements in outcomes and impact for the health system. Their contribution to the concept of resilient facilities and health services needs further exploration.

Keywords: Africa; family physicians; health workforce; models of care; primary health care; quality improvement; service delivery.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Family Practice*
  • Health Services
  • Health Workforce
  • Humans
  • Physicians, Family*