New Focus on Primary Care
PAHO's Directing Council endorsed a new approach to primary health care that calls for integrating its core principles into countries' health systems rather than creating separate programs. The approach is outlined in a new Regional Declaration on the New Orientations of Primary Health Care, adopted by the ministers during their meeting in September.
The declaration notes that the Americas region has made important progress in health, but significant challenges and disparities remain. Among the most important is the need to extend quality health care to all sectors of the population. Integrating the principles of primary health care into health systems would help meet this challenge,as well as new challenges resulting from epidemiological and demographic changes, emerging infections, the impact of globalization, and rising health care costs.
Experience over the last 27 years shows that health systems that adhere to the principles of primary health care produce greater efficiency and better health outcomes in terms of both individual and public health, according to the declaration.
"A health system based on primary health care orients its structures and functions toward the values of equity and social solidarity and the right of every human being to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without distinction of race, religion, political belief, or economic or social condition."
The declaration commits the region's health leaders to:
- Work toward the goal of universal access to high-quality health care
- Strengthen individual, family, and community participation in health policies and programs
- Facilitate intersectoral action, including both public and private sectors
- Emphasize health promotion and disease prevention
- Focus on quality care and patient safety
- Strengthen human resources in health
- Promote efficient health sector organization and management capable of responding effectively in situations of change or crisis
- Guarantee financial sustainability of primary health care based systems
- Promote research, development, and appropriate technology
- Strengthen international cooperation, exchange of knowledge and practices, and resource mobilization for primary health care.
The Regional Declaration on the New Orientations of Primary Health Care resulted from a year-long process spearheaded by PAHO to develop new orientations to primary health care following the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Alma Ata last year.
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