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    Peer Reviewed

    Pioneering community-oriented primary care.

    Susser M


    This is a retrospective report on the importance of Kark and Cassel's 1952 paper on community-oriented primary care (COPC). In 1978, WHO and UNICEF endorsed COPC. However, the ideas girding and framing this approach had first been given full expression in practice some four decades earlier. In Depression-Era South Africa, Sidney Kark, a leader of the National Department of Health, converted the emergent discipline of social medicine into a unique form of comprehensive practice and established the Pholela Health Center, which was the explicit model for COPC. COPC as founded and practiced by Kark was a community, family and personal practice; it also was a multidisciplinary and team practice. Furthermore, the innovations of COPC entailed monitoring, evaluation, and research. Evaluation is the essence of Kark and Kassel's paper, which offers a convincing demonstration of the effects of COPC. Its key findings include the following: 1) that there was a decline in the incidence of syphilis in the area served by the health center; 2) that diet and nutrition improved; and 3) that the crude mortality rate as well as the infant mortality rate--the standard marker--declined in Pholela. In the succeeding decades, OPC had an international legacy (through WHO and H. Jack Geiger's influence in the US Office of Economic Opportunity), which came full circle in the 1980s, when a young generation of South Africans began to search their history for models for their health care programs at the dawn of the post-Apartheid Era.
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