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    The preventive-curative conflict in primary health care.

    De Sa C

    HEALTH FOR THE MILLIONS. 1993 Apr; 1(2):14-7.

    Approximately 80% of the rural population in developing countries do not have access to appropriate curative care. The primary health care (PHC) approach emphasizes promotive and preventive services. Yet most people in developing countries consider curative care to be more important. Thus, PHC should include curative and rehabilitative care along with preventive and promotive care. The conflict between preventive and curative care is apparent at the community level, among health workers from all levels of the health system, and among policy makers. Community members are sometimes willing to pay for curative services but not preventive services. Further, they believe that they already know enough to prevent illness. Community health workers (CHWs), the mainstays of most PHC projects are trained in preventive efforts, but this hinders their effectiveness, since the community expects curative care. Besides, 66% of villagers' health problems require curative care. Further, CHWs are isolated from health professionals, adding to their inability to effect positive change. Health professionals are often unable to set up a relationship of trust with the community, largely due to their urban-based medical education. They tend not to explain treatment to patients or to simplify explanations in a condescending manner. They also mystify diseases, preventing people from understanding their own bodies and managing their illnesses. National governments often misinterpret national health policies promoting PHC and implement them from a top-down approach rather than from the bottom-up PHC-advocated approach. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international agencies also interpret PHC in different ways. Still, strong partnerships between government, NGOs, private sector, and international agencies are needed for effective implementation of PHC. Yet, many countries continue to have complex hierarchical social structures, inequitable distribution, and inadequate resources, making it difficult to implement effective PHC.
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