Primary healthcare and public health
The Primary Healthcare Strategy 2001 provides a clear direction for the future development of primary healthcare in New Zealand.
A strong primary healthcare system is central to reducing inequalities in community health and improving the health of New Zealanders.
A new direction for primary healthcare is required; a greater emphasis on population health and the role of the community, health promotion and preventative care, and the need to involve a range of professionals.
A population health approach takes into account, and plans for, all the factors that determine health.
It requires a focus on prevention, education, health maintenance and wellbeing. A strengthening of connections with communities is essential and it demands culturally appropriate services, inclusive consumer-centred service provision, and the development of new healthcare services.
Primary Health Organisations
The Primary Healthcare Strategy 2001 has given rise to the development of Primary Health Organisations (PHOs), which are the local structures that organise their primary care health services around the needs of their respective communities.
Primary Health Organisations are required to develop health promotion plans to implement this new direction.
Interface between public health and primary healthcare
A population health approach is not new for public health. Public health is about keeping people healthy and improving the health of populations rather than treating diseases, disorders and disabilities in individuals.
Public health, particularly health promotion, has an important role in re-orienting the health sector towards a population health approach.
Public health knowledge and skills within the Primary Health Organisations’ workforce will assist PHOs to achieve their population health goals; not only at an individual worker level, but also at an organisational level.
The challenge for the traditional primary healthcare approach is to learn new ways of working.
The challenge for public health is to evolve public health focussed workforce development and training, so that it is applicable to the primary care workforce.