Primary health care progress and problems

Public Health Rev. 1984;12(3-4):272-8.

Abstract

PIP: The 1st generation of primary health care efforts were assessed in order to temper future efforts with implementation realities. With support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the American Public Health Association (APHA) studied 52 primary health care (PHC) projects from 1980-82, documenting the numerous lessons learned. The contrast between the ideology of PHC and field realities provides valuable insights which must be fed back into 2nd generation projects. The projects were in 33 developing countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Near East. Approximately 1/3 were national level efforts; one-half, variously sized regional efforts; and the remainder, small scale pilot efforts. The sources of information were project documents and interviews with individuals who knew field activities firsthand. All the projects had as their primary goal provision of low-cost health services to previously unserved rural communities, using community personnel, and strengthening community institutions. Regarding overall assessment, while data continue to be limited on the impact of the approach on health status, there are some positive indications, especially for the projects of longer duration. For example, in Nepal and Thailand, there were modest improvements in health status of the target population in 2 project areas. A project in Kitui, Kenya reported reductions in infant mortality rates. A PHC program in Panama was responsible for decreases in the incidence of diarrhea, parasites, and typhoid. Many of the projects have been successful in setting up a PHC structure that extends coverage for health measures such as immunizations, family planning, and prenatal care. Many new facilities are in place. Skills of health workers have been upgraded, and new categories of paraprofessionals have been trained. Additionally, sizable numbers of community health workers have been trained and deployed. There is some evidence that in a few cases projects have been instrumental in changing government attitudes. Some common implementation problems raise important issues for all PHC projects: provision of support services, project financing, community participation, and appropriate and effective use of community health workers, and balancing the perceived needs of the community with those of health professionals. By identifying some of the obstacles to PHC implementation, this study sets the agenda which the next generation of projects must address.

MeSH terms

  • Capital Financing
  • Community Health Workers / statistics & numerical data
  • Community Participation
  • Developing Countries*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care*