Join for Just $16 A Year
- Discounts on travel and everyday savings
- Subscription to AARP The Magazine
- Free membership for your spouse or partner
The concept of primary health care was defined by the World Health Organization in 1978 as both a level of health service delivery and an approach to health care practice. Primary care, as the provision of essential health care, is the basis of a health care system. Seventy-five to eighty-five percent of the population seek primary health care yearly. It provides both the initial and the majority of health care services of a person or population. This is in contrast to secondary health care, which is consultative, short term, and disease oriented for the purpose of assisting the primary care practitioner. Tertiary care is for patients with unusual illness requiring highly specialized services. Primary care clinicians may be physicians, nurses, or various other health workers trained for the purpose. Countries with better provision of primary health care have greater patient satisfaction at lower costs and better health indicators.
While there are many definitions of primary care, the principles of accessible, comprehensive, continuous, and coordinated personal care in the context of family and community are consistent. Primary health care should be available to all people without the barriers of geography, cost, language, or culture. In primary care, all types of problems, at all ages and for both genders, are considered, including care for acute self-limited problems or injuries, the care of chronic diseases such as diabetes or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the provision of preventive care services such as immunizations and family planning, and health education. Because primary health care is broad, it is information rich. Primary care clinicians coordinate care for patients among different service providers and for different patient concerns, responding to the fact that most patients have multiple problems. Continuity of care refers to the ongoing relationship between individual
The proportion of primary care physicians varies by country—for example, in Great Britain, it is 80 percent; in the United States, it is 32 percent. Primary care physicians in the United States consist of family or general practice physicians, general internists, and general pediatricians. Some primary care may be delivered by specialists, especially obstetrician-gynecologists, but it is not the focus of their practice. In the United States, primary care is also delivered by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Considering all sources of primary care, there is still a lack of primary care providers in many areas of the country, particularly in the inner city and rural areas.
VALERIE J. GILCHRIST
(SEE ALSO: Personal Health Services)
Author Info: VALERIE J. GILCHRIST, The Gale Group Inc., Macmillan Reference USA, New York, Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health, 2002This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
Member access to health and insurance products and services at AARPhealthcare.com.
Members can get an instant quote with AARP® Dental Insurance administered by Delta Dental Insurance Company.
Members can save on eyewear with AARP® Vision Discounts provided by EyeMed.
Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.