What is Primary Health Care?
Primary Health Care is the first and continuing point of contact for most Nova Scotians within the healthcare system. Primary Health Care provides a range of services beyond the traditional healthcare system and focuses on healthcare services that include health promotion, illness and injury prevention, managing of chronic diseases and the diagnosis and treatment of patients when they are sick. Primary Health Care helps ensure stability of care across the entire healthcare system. By partnering with individuals, communities, health professionals and government, Primary Health Care addresses the factors that affect health such as family, education, job, income and social economic situations. These determinants of health play key roles in the various components of social supports systems and early childhood development.
Community response is one of the key elements of Primary Health Care. The range of services that are offered may vary in each community, depending on the needs of their health population. Some of the different Primary Health Care services include, but are not limited to:
- Prevention and treatment of common diseases and injuries
- Referrals to/coordination with other levels of care (such as hospitals and specialist care)
- Primary Mental health care
- Palliative and end-of-life-care
- Health promotion
- Healthy child development
- Primary maternity care
The goal of Primary Health Care in Nova Scotia is to improve access to services, while ensuring the appropriate use of resources in the delivery of care. Presently, Primary Health Care Services in Nova Scotia and Canada are delivered primarily by family physicians and general medical practitioners who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of illness and injury.
Effective delivery of Primary Health Care services relies on the support and resources from other departments and individuals. To deliver the best care possible Primary Health Care teams need an adequate supply of health human resources, a team-based approach and access to information and technology that allows the team to focus on the needs of the patient. Primary Health Care teams also require governance and funding models which support team-based care, access to public health services, and most importantly that they work in a culture of accountability, performance measurement and quality improvement.
The majority of people that visit the hospital or family physician do not require services above the Primary Health Care level, which puts an emphasis on how important it is for Primary Health teams to organize healthcare around the needs of their population. By integrating health into all of the sectors of the community including family, work, and social and economic situations people will have a better understanding of the importance of the individual and community initiatives designed to aid in the development of a more well-rounded and be inclusive healthcare system.