OPINION: It’s time to better understand what makes primary health care work
Monday, August 10, 2015
A mother carries her sick child into a health clinic. He has had a fever for three days, and she hopes it isn’t serious. What happens next should be a given — but all too often isn’t.
Will her son be appropriately diagnosed and treated, and is there a clear follow-up plan if his health does not improve? Does the provider check that the child’s vaccination records are updated? Say it’s the rainy season, causing a heightened risk for malaria: Does the family understand why they need to use a bed net? Does the provider also check the mother’s health in the same visit? Perhaps she has chronic high blood pressure that should be managed, or needs to be referred to a specialist.
These questions paint a picture of what a primary health care system can be, and in some places already is: the front line of health, placing people at the center of care and connecting them with a spectrum of health services over the course of their lives. When a primary health care system works well, it can meet the vast majority of people’s health needs, and engage the whole community in improving health across the board. But when the system doesn’t work, consequences can be pronounced and tragic.
- Health Care