The first level contact with people taking action to improve health in a community.
Primary Health Care is essential health care made accessible at a cost which the country and community can afford, with methods that are practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable.
In a system with a gatekeeper, all initial (non-emergency) consultations with doctors, nurses or other health staff are termed primary health care, as opposed to secondary health care or referral services.
In systems with direct access to specialists, the distinction is usually based on facilities, with polyclinics, for example, providing primary care and hospitals secondary care.
World Health Organization. European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. Glossary. 2009.
The first level of contact with people taking action to improve health in a community.
PHC is essential health care made accessible at a cost the country can afford, with methods that are practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable. Everyone in the community should have access to it and everyone should be involved in it. Related sectors in addition to the health sector should also be involved. At the very least it should include education for the community on the prevalent health problems and on methods to prevent health problems from arising or to control them; the promotion of adequate supplies of food and proper nutrition; sufficient safe water and basic sanitation; maternal and child health care, including family planning; the prevention and control of local endemic diseases; immunization against the main infectious diseases; appropriate treatment of common diseases; and the provision of essential drugs.
PHC is the central function and the main focus of a country's health system. It is an integral part of the social and economic development of a country. The essential difference between the WHO concept of PHC and the concept of basic health services is that PHC is a process concerned with equity, intersectoral action, community participation and involvement in order to secure health gain. It is not merely the professional delivery of medical care at local level. Involvement means that individuals and families assume responsibility for their own, and for the community's health and welfare, and develop the capacity to contribute to their own and to the community's development. Investment in this process is more efficient, effective, acceptable and sustainable than other ways of promoting health gain within local communities. The concept is consistent with the core values increasingly seen as essential to development: life sustenance, self-esteem and freedom to be able to choose.