Primary health care, a concept to be fully understood and implemented

· China Focus, Volume 3 Issue 3

Authors: Xu, Guoping; Wang, Jiaji

The English concept “primary health care” (PHC) has been misunderstood and wrongly interpreted in Chinese as “entry-level health care” for more than a half century. On the other hand, specialty care was considered “advanced health care.” This misconception of PHC permeated the government and the health care field with many negative consequences for China’s vision of its health care and development strategy, in areas such as government policy-making, health care financing, infrastructure planning, and health care workforce training. This article elucidates how PHC has been misconstrued and translated into “entry-level health care” in China and why it is a wrong interpretation of the PHC concept from various angles, including the basic English meaning of “primary” and “health care,” the concept of comprehensive PHC, the global PHC experience, and the harmful consequences of the misconception in China’s PHC development and in society at large. China’s current new health care reform toward a PHC-centered health system has made significant early achievements, but also faces huge challenges, including the widespread and ingrained misconception of PHC. It is hoped that academic scholars in the health care field, medical professionals, and officials in the government will gain clearer insight into the PHC concept and rectify its harmful effects on PHC development in various sectors, and promote advancement of meaningful health care reform applicable to the masses.