Primary Health Care

A health system based on Primary Health Care orients its structures and functions toward the values of equity and social solidarity and the right of every human being to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without distinction of race, religion, political belief, or economic or social condition. The principles required to sustain such a system are its capacity to respond equitably and efficiently to the health needs of citizens, including the ability to monitor progress for continuous improvement and renewal; the responsibility and accountability of governments; sustainability; participation; an orientation toward the highest standards of quality and safety; and intersectoral action.


Primary Care illustration
Key facts
  • Primary health care can cover the majority of a person’s health needs throughout their life including prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.
  • At least half of the world’s people still lack full coverage of essential health services.
  • A fit-for-purpose workforce is essential to deliver primary health care, yet the world has an estimated shortfall of 18 million health workers.
  • Of the 30 countries for which data are available, only 8 spend at least US$ 40 per person on primary health care per year.
Fact sheet
What PAHO does

WHO recognizes the central role of primary health care for achieving health and well-being for all, at all ages.  WHO works with countries to:

  • Identify priority areas for improving health and context-specific approaches which draw on the technical expertise across the WHO.
  • Support countries to develop inclusive policies, in country leadership and health systems based on primary health care which promote health equity and works towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage. 
  • Address the wider inequity and social determinants of health through multi-sectoral action.