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The role of health centres in the development of urban health systems: report of a WHO Study Group on Primary Health Care in Urban Areas.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION TECHNICAL REPORT SERIES. 1992; (827):i-iv, 1-38.The WHO Study Group on Primary Health Care (PHC) in Urban Areas has written a report after examining the development of reference health centers in urban areas in various parts of the world. It considers such centers to be a potentially important way to improve urban health services. Reference health centers, with real roots in the community and good links to first level and referral level care, can address the problems of access to health care and intersectoral collaboration. Each center should be based on a general model, but its exact operation depends on local conditions and on a comprehensive situation analysis that considers social and financial factors and the level of organizational development. Each reference center should determine what needs to be done locally with local and national resources. Outside donors should only provide assistance for operational costs and a last resort. To plan services adequately, decision makers must define geographical catchment areas and travel times. These definitions must see to it that services integrate with each other vertically (with services at health post and hospital levels), and horizontally (with government, and nongovernmental, and community projects). A solid epidemiological understanding of major local health problems is essential for expanding PHC through reference health centers. This knowledge comes from an assessment of demographic, morbidity, mortality, and social data an evaluation of coverage of underserved and marginal groups. Reference health centers would be in an ideal position to gather and analyze these data. Innovative ways to obtain the resources for urban PHC are collection of user fees and close supportive links with universities and nongovernmental organizations. The Study Group looks at how reference health centers in Cali, Colombia; Manila, the Philippines; and Newark, New Jersey in the US, developed.