Primary health care refers to day-to-day medical care aimed at improving health, preventing diseases and diagnosing disabilities at an early stage. The care provider acts as the initial contact person in the primary health care system and coordinates all health services that the patient needs.
Primary health care includes all areas that contribute to better health, including medical services, the environment and lifestyle. Its goal is to provide patients with a variety of preventive and curative care on a continuous basis. Patients receive services at an affordable cost and with methods that are scientifically and practically acceptable.
The primary health care approach encompasses various key components, including equity, community involvement and appropriateness of technology. At the very least, it includes health education for individuals and communities on the nature of health problems and methods of controlling them. Other essential activities include nutrition, proper sanitation, maternal and child care, and provision of essential drugs.
The World Health Organization identifies various elements of achieving better primary care, including reducing disparities, organizing health services around the needs of people and integrating health into all public sectors. A primary health care practitioner may be a physician, pharmacist or clinical officer. Depending on the nature of the condition, the practitioner may refer the patient for secondary or tertiary treatment.