Primary health care (PHC) is defined as a whole-of-society approach to health to ensure a high quality level of health and well-being and its equitable distribution, by focusing on people’s needs and as early as possible. This is intended for across the care continuum, from health promotion and disease prevention, to treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care, and should be easily accessible. Health systems built on the principles of primary health care are essential to achieve universal health coverage, therefore. India’s commitment to primary health care has evolved to align with global priorities, recognising the right of all people to achieve the highest attainable level of health. Primary health care should serve as a gatekeeper to improve efficiency, reduce inappropriate care and minimise the burden on facilities providing higher levels of care.
This primer presents a comprehensive primary health care framework which draws on building blocks of health systems, while recognising cross-cutting levers and community at the centre, by adapting frameworks by WHO and USAID India Alliance.
Primary health care challenges in India persist across all aspects of the health system, including aspects such as the lack of outcome orientation, ineffective policy implementation, skewed infrastructure-driven focus, inadequate human resources, to name a few. Overcoming these challenges requires a comprehensive approach addressing multiple systemic aspects of primary health care.
Solutions and tailwinds
Solutions in the ecosystem in the form of established models, research, collaborative initiatives and innovation in primary health care provide an opportunity to revolutionise and strengthen PHC in India. Complementing existing solutions, PHC in India and globally is experiencing a wave of prioritisation and shift towards areas such as self-care, gender-responsive care, linkages of climate change and primary health care, alternate financing models, and remote monitoring, along with others shared in this primer.
Authors: Yashasvi Murali, Jyotir Sondhi and Sarah Joseph.