The practice of modern medicine

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Primary health care is an integral part of a country's health maintenance system, of which it forms the largest and most important part. As described in the declaration of Alma-Ata, primary health care should be "based on practical scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals in the community through their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of then development." Primary health care in the developed countries is usually the province of a medically qualified physician; in the developing countries first contact care is often provided by nonmedically qualified personnel.

The vast majority of patients can be fully dealt with at the primary level. Those who cannot are referred to the second tier (secondary health care, or the referral services) for the opinion of a consultant with specialized knowledge or for X-ray examinations and special tests. Secondary health care often requires the technology offered by a local or regional hospital. Increasingly, however, the radiological and laboratory services provided by hospitals are available directly to the family doctor, thus improving his service to palings and increasing its range. The third tier of health care employing specialist services, is offered by institutions such as leaching hospitals and units devoted to the care of particular groupswomen, children, patients with mental disorders, and so on. The dramatic differences in the cost of treatment at the various levels is a matter of particular importance in developing countries, where the cost of treatment for patients at the primary health-care level is usually only a small fraction of that at the third level- medical costs at any level in such countries, however, are usually borne by the government.

Ideally, provision of health care at all levels will be available to all patients; such health care may be said to be universal. The well-off, both in relatively wealthy industrialized countries and in the poorer developing world, may be able to get medical attention from sources they prefer and can pay for in the private sector. The vast majority of people in most countries, however, are dependent in various ways upon health services provided by the state, to which they may contribute comparatively little or, in the case of poor countries, nothing at all.

Costs of health care. The costs to national economics of providing health care are considerable and have been growing at a rapidly increasing rate, especially in countries such as the United States, Germany, and Sweden; the rise in Britain has been less rapid. This trend has been the cause of major concerns in both developed and developing countries. Some of this concern is based upon the lack of any consistent evidence to show that more spending on health care produces better health. There is a movement in developing countries to replace the type of organization of health-care services that evolved during European colonial times with some less expensive, and for them, more appropriate, health-care system.

In the industrialized world the growing cost of health services has caused both private and public health-care delivery systems to question current policies and to seek more economical methods of achieving their goals. Despite expenditures, health services are not always used effectively by those who need them, and results can vary widely from community to community. In Britain, for example, between 1951 and 1971 the death rate fell by 24 percent in the wealthier sections of the population but by only half that in the most underprivileged sections of society. The achievement of good health is reliant upon more than just the quality of health care. Health entails such factors as good education, safe working conditions, a favourable environment, amenities in the home, well-integrated social services, and reasonable standards of living.

: 11/11/2009