Primary Health Care (PHC) Definitions, Components, and Benefits

Primary Health Care (PHC) Definitions, Components, and Benefits


Primary Health care is the first contact a person has with the health system when they have a health problem. The Declaration on PHC was endorsed by all the countries and was considered a watershed in terms of the concepts and practices of public health as a scientific discipline. Primary health care (PHC) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “essential health care based on scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology, which make universal health care accessible to all individuals and families in a community. It is through their full participation and at a cost that the community and the country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination”

“PHC is a whole-of-society approach to health that aims at ensuring the highest possible level of health and well-being and their equitable distribution by focusing on people’s needs and as early as possible along the continuum from health promotion and disease prevention to treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care, and as close as feasible to people’s everyday environment.” WHO and UNICEF. A vision for primary health care in the 21st century: Towards UHC and the SDGs.

PHC provision has progressed from concepts and words to action and reality during the last 40 years. Though the HFA’s lofty targets were not met in 2000, PHC, as a fundamental principle of the WHO Constitution and Alma-Ata Declaration, remains critical in today’s global health context, particularly for poor nations.

The PHC links multiple sectors and disciplines integrates a variety of elements of disease management, emphasizes prevention and early detection, and the maintenance of health. In fact, as the most affordable and accessible health service for residents, especially for those in remote areas, PHC has been long viewed as the “first element” as well as part of a “continuing health care process”

Essential components of PHC

Specifically, Alma-Ata Declaration has outlined eight essential components of PHC, including:

  1. Health education on prevailing health problems and the methods of preventing and controlling them;
  2. Supply of adequate safe water and sanitation;
  3. Nutritional promotion including food supply;
  4. Provision of essential drugs.
  5. Immunization against major infectious diseases;
  6. Prevention and control of locally endemic diseases;
  7. Maternal and child health care;  
  8. Appropriate treatment of common diseases and injuries; and

All these basic requirements are incorporated in the SDGs for 2030 from Goal 2 to Goal 4.

Benefits of Primary Health Care:

  • Increased access to health services
  • Improved Quality of Care
  • Focus on Prevention
  • Early Management of Health conditions
  • Reduced Need for Specialist Care
  • Characteristics of Primary Care Delivery


  1. World Health Organization. Declaration of Alma-Ata. Adopted at the International Conference on Primary Health Care, Alma-Ata, 6–12 September 1978, USSR.
  2. Chan M. The World Health Report 2008: Primary Health Care- Now more than ever. Accessed 15 Sep 2018.
  10. United Nations. Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Accessed 15 Sep 2018.
  11. Smith, Yolanda. (2019, February 27). Benefits of Primary Health Care. News-Medical.