Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care

Access to primary health care: three challenges to equity

Mark Fort Harris, Elizabeth Harris and Martin Roland

Australian Journal of Primary Health 10(3) 21 - 29
Published: 2004


Access to primary health care is a key policy issue in many countries, and is of particular importance in those countries committed to equitable access to primary health care as a strategy for addressing health inequity. Making sure primary health care systems are equitable and accessible to those who need them most is more complex than equal use by all people or population groups. Access can be defined as the opportunity or ease with which consumers or communities are able to use appropriate services in proportion to their need. This paper explores some of the challenges facing the UK and Australian health systems in relation to improving equity of access, which include providing high quality care for socially disadvantaged groups, ensuring access to primary health care appropriate to needs, and developing universal and targeted policies that reduce inequalities in access to primary health care. Drawing on literature from the two countries, this paper identifies contemporary issues in equity of access and discusses potential measures to address these issues. While the paper focuses on the role of primary health care - and especially those services provided through general practice in reducing health inequity - it is recognised that action must also occur in other sectors to address underlying determinants of health.

© La Trobe University 2004

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