NEW YORK— In September, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Bank Group and World Health Organization launched a new partnership to support global primary health care in low and middle-income countries.
“We know that better measurement can guide smarter, more effective planning and action,” said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “It’s time to get serious about tracking and measuring primary health care performance, so that countries have the data they need to efficiently direct resources to improve the health of their citizens, especially women and children.”
The new partnership, the Primary Health Care Performance Initiative (PHCPI), brings together health policymakers, practitioners, advocates and development partners. It is aimed at monitoring primary health care vital signs, improving the quality of primary health care data and promoting country collaboration and improvements.
As the pillar of health systems, primary health care is crucial in preventing epidemics like Ebola, improving women and children’s health, controlling major infectious diseases, such as HIV and TB and managing the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
Primary health care connects people and families with trusted health workers and supportive systems throughout their lives. Through primary health care, people have access to various health services, such as family planning, routine immunizations, treatment of illness and management of chronic conditions.
However, primary health care is often a weak link in health systems. Over 400 million people have difficulty in receiving essential health services, which are typically delivered through primary health care. For example, Ebola could have been prevented through basic health measures, but insufficient primary health care systems fueled the worldwide outbreak, especially in low- and middle- income countries.
In order to improve global primary health care, PHCPI is designed to catalyze improvements in primary health care through better measurement and knowledge sharing.
“For the first time, the world has set a goal with specific targets for universal health coverage by 2030,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group and co-founder of PHCPI.
“To ensure that everyone has access to essential and affordable health services, countries must have strong primary health care systems to deliver them— that’s how we’ll reach the poorest and most vulnerable people with the care they need, in the most equitable way.”
To support primary health care, PHCPI will monitor primary health care vital signs, improve the quality of primary health care data and promote country collaboration and improvements.
For starters, PHCPI will track 25 key performance indicators for primary health care across 135 countries, where data is available. This will help the global health community and countries better identify the advantages and disadvantages of their primary health care systems.
Secondly, PHCPI will work to improve the quality of primary health care data. Information on how often health workers are present at health centers and the accuracy of their diagnoses is unavailable in some low- and middle- income countries. In order to improve the quality of data, PHCPI will expand the availability of existing data and develop additional indicators for diagnosing and monitoring underlying challenges.
Finally, PHCPI will promote country collaboration and improvements. The partnership will serve country partners as a foundation and platform for knowledge sharing.
PHCPI is also partnering with the Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage, which was initially established by The Rockefeller Foundation, and currently includes 22 member countries that offer essential health services.