By guest contributors Steve Murigi, Dr Sentayehu Tsegaye, and Dr Matthew Harris
What is Primary Care?
Simply put, primary care (PC) is first contact care. Its principal function is to bring continuous, integrated, comprehensive and accessible health services as close as possible to the people. For many of us, and under usual circumstances, this is how we interact with the healthcare system for most of our lives. It will meet 90-95 percent of our health needs.
In the narrower sense, PC is ‘designed’ to treat and manage illness. In the wider sense, PC is a crucial part of the primary health care system (PHC) which extends to public health promotion, disease prevention, and safeguarding of good health and well-being in communities and at home. To draw on a more comprehensive understanding, we will follow the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) description of PC as care that “addresses the main health problems in the community, providing preventive, curative and rehabilitative services. This account expands the meaning of primary from ‘first’ to ‘principal’.
While primary care, particularly for countries in the Global North, is usually provided at a located facility, and by a general practitioner (GP) or nurse, PC can be provided anywhere. In many parts of the world, PC practitioners will include other health professionals such as pharmacists and community-based networks of health workers. The physical bricks and mortar infrastructure is important but what makes PC effective is its foundation, connection, and trust with the community. It is this trust that enables primary care providers to support public health efforts in keeping people healthy outside of health facilities. Hence, PC is about caring for t …