Primary health care

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Primary health care was a new approach to health care that came into existence following an international conference in Alma Ata in 1978 organised by the World Health Organisation and the UNICEF. The Alma Ata conference defined primary health care as follows:

"Primary health care is essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination."

Primary health care was accepted by the member countries of WHO as the key to achieving the goal of Health for all.


Essential components of primary health care

The Declaration of Alma Ata outlined the 8 essential components of primary health care.

1. Education concerning prevailing health problems and the methods of preventing and controlling them.

2. Promotion of food supply and proper nutrition.

3. An adequate supply of safe water and basic sanitation.

4. Maternal and child health care, including family planning.

5. Immunisation against major infectious diseases.

6. Prevention and control of locally endemic diseases.

7. Appropriate treatment of common diseases and injuries.

8. Provision of essential medicines.

Principles of primary health care

Equitable distribution

Health services must be shared equally by all people irrespective of their ability to pay.

Community participation

There must be a continuing effort to secure meaningful involvement of the community in the planning, implementation and maintenance of health services, beside maximum reliance on local resources such as manpower, money and materials.

Intersectoral coordination

Primary health care involves in addition to the health sector, all related sectors and aspects of national and community development, in particular agriculture, animal husbandry, food, industry, education, housing, public works, communication and other sectors.

Appropriate technology

Appropriate technology is technology that is scientifically sound, adaptable to local needs, acceptable to those who apply it and for those for whom it is used and can be maintained by the people themselves in keeping with the principle of self reliance with the resources the community and country can afford.


WHO (1978). Alma Ata 1978: Primary Health Care, HFA Sr. No. 1

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