The World Health Organization (WHO) began promoting Primary Health Care (PHC) since before 1978, when PHC was adopted during the Alma-Ata Conference as a central strategy to achieve the "Health for All" goal. Recently, a process of PHC renewal was initiated by PAHO/WHO with the aim to strengthen countries’ capacity to implement a coordinated, effective and sustainable strategy to tackle existing health problems, meet new health challenges and improve health equity.
Multiple reasons justify the renewal of PHC: emerging epidemiological challenges; the need to correct weaknesses and inconsistencies in some of the different PHC approaches; the existence of new knowledge and tools that can increase PHC effectiveness; the growing recognition of PHC as a strategy to strengthen society’s capacity to reduce health inequalities; and the emerging consensus that PHC is a sound approach to address the causes of poor health and inequities.
The PAHO/WHO believes that PHC renewal must be an integral part of health systems development and, in turn, that health systems based on PHC constitute the best strategy to promote equitable and sustainable improvements in the health of the peoples of the Americas.
A health system based on PHC is one that guarantees universal coverage and access to services that are acceptable to the population and equity-enhancing. It provides comprehensive, integrated and appropriate care over time that emphasizes prevention and promotion, and that assures first contact. Families and communities are the basis for planning and action.
A PHC-based system requires a sound legal, institutional and organizational framework as well as adequate and sustainable human, financial and technological resources. It employs optimal organization and management practices at all levels to achieve quality, efficiency and effectiveness, and develops active mechanisms to maximize individual and collective participation in health. A health system of this nature promotes intersectoral action to address other determinants of health and equity.
This section contains conceptual and theoretical developments, tools, guidelines and experiences related to PHC renewal that can support the process of building and strengthening PHC-based health systems in the Americas.