What is “primary health care”?
Primary health care refers to basic, everyday health care services accessed by Canadians.
Primary health care is about:
- Preventing people from becoming ill or injured
- Managing chronic conditions
- Making the most effective use of health provider expertise
- Treating acute and episodic illness
- Efficiency and coordination
- Individuals playing an active role in their own health care
- Understanding that factors outside the health care system impact health
What do the four pillars of primary health care represent?
The Primary Health Care framework is built on four key pillars or elements. Those pillars, briefly described below, are key to fostering and strengthening the delivery of health and wellness care. For more information about any of the pillars, just click on it.
- Teams – A team of health care providers works with you to improve care.
- Information – Information is co-ordinated between health care providers.
- Access – You have access to the right care at the right time.
- Healthy Living – A focus on prevention and self-care helps keep you well.
What are the benefits of primary health care?
Efforts to strengthen primary health care are geared to helping sustain Canada’s health care system over the long-term and providing enhanced services to you and all Canadians.
Some of the most immediate benefits of strengthening primary health care include:
- Increased access to primary health care resources;
- Organizations that address the unique health care needs of the populations they serve;
- Multidisciplinary approaches to care;
- Health care that emphasizes health promotion and the ongoing management of chronic diseases;
- Expanded access to essential services; and
- Improved integration with other health services, such as hospitals, home care and specialists.
In the longer term, strengthening primary health care has the potential to keep waiting lists down, lessen the pressure on emergency rooms and make the system more sustainable in the long term.
Is there evidence that primary health care can help with the long-term sustainability of the health care system?
Primary health care is about improving quality and access – for example, offering supports and options other than emergency rooms outside of regular office hours, actively managing chronic diseases to avoid or minimize complications and emphasizing health promotion to help you and your family stay well.
Where these types of innovations have been implemented, there are some impressive results.
Telephone advice lines, such as Healthline, have been implemented in most jurisdictions in recent years and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that they are succeeding in supporting more effective use of emergency rooms.
Managing the health care system will always involve difficult decisions regarding resource allocations, but the quality and access improvements offered by primary health care will be key to maximizing outcomes and ensuring its long-term future.
Is primary health care something new?
Primary health care is not a new concept. There are a number of well-established primary health care clinics across Canada that have been in operation for many years. Countries around the world agreed to its importance as early as 1978, when the World Health Organization held an international conference on primary health care.
At the national level, First Ministers from across Canada met in September 2000 and agreed that improving primary health care is crucial to the renewal and long-term sustainability of the health care system. To that end, the federal government invested $800 million in a Primary Health Care Transition Fund to support the provinces and territories in their plans to improve and expand primary health care delivery in Canada.
Following the release of the Romanow Commission report in 2002, the First Ministers continued their focus on primary health care. The 2003 Health Care Renewal Accord identified primary health care as a priority and placed particular focus on increasing access and building primary health care teams that include a range of health professionals.
Provinces and territories are continuing to work on primary health care and a number of key initiatives are underway across the country.
Have primary health care sites been established in Heartland?
The first primary health care site in Saskatchewan was established in Heartland at the Beechy Health Centre. That site is still in operation, with satellite sites located in Lucky Lake and Kyle. A primary health site is also in operation in the community of Eatonia. Heartland continues its work to expand the number and type of Primary Health Care teams available to serve its citizens.
Are there other primary health care initiatives taking place in the region?q
There are several examples of the primary health care approach at work in Heartland. In addition to the health care professionals in and around Beechy that make up the chronic disease management team, there is also a Diabetes Strategy team. Members work hard to organize an annual Diabetes in Focus Education Day. More than a hundred people with diabetes from all across the region attend, to find out the latest information on managing their condition.
All Heartland residents have 24-hour, 7 day a week access to toll-free telephone services like HealthLine and the Smoker’s Helpline, as well as to the Healthline Online website. All of these are examples of primary health care at work in your communities, providing you with access to expert information when and where you need it.
By collaborating with health organizations and governments in Saskatchewan and throughout Canada, the Heartland Health Region continues to improve primary health care for its residents.