alexa The secondary importance of primary health care in South Cameroon.
Healthcare

Healthcare

Primary Healthcare: Open Access

Author(s): van der Geest S

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Abstract Primary health care in Cameroon meets with serious obstacles. The state gives it a low priority in its budget and over-all policy. The health institutions are rarely active in this field. Institutions which do practice some primary health care are usually foreign. The villagers, finally, are little interested. They insist only on improvement of curative services and material life conditions. The conclusion is that primary health care is regarded as something of secondary importance. First comes a better life. The research for this paper was conducted in 1980 in the South of Cameroon. PIP: Primary health care (PHC) in Cameroon is given low priority in the budget and in overall policy. This paper deals with the distribution and use of Western medicines in the division of Ntem. Research was carried out in ministerial offices, hospitals, health centers, pharmacies, medicine shops, and homes using open and structured interviews, case histories, reports, files, and financial records. National health policy dictates that priority should be given to preventive medicine and PHC, but actually in the 1979-80 budget only 7\% of expenses was given to these items, while 59\% went to hospitals. This may be due to the fact that national policy has been geared toward centralization; most health care efforts are directed at urban populations, but only 28.5\% of the population lives in cities. Public health centers in rural areas were found to be neglected and constantly facing shortages. Other reasons why health institutions have so little PHC are: 1) PHC is not commercially attractive, 2) health workers are not interested in it, and 3) most health workers prefer to work in the towns. Private health institutions in Ntem, usually connected with churches, are more oriented toward PHC providing vaccinations, educational and sanitation support, and are sometimes funded by foreign organizations. Opposition to PHC is also found among the villagers themselves because of a lack of village solidarity and a reluctance to spend money on preventive health measures. Like PHC, family planning is an area of much debate; some find it necessary for economic growth, some say it will come naturally after economic growth. The author concludes that PHC without economic growth may be unrealistic but it seems even less realistic to postpone PHC until economic development has occurred. PHC in Cameroon has only been successful when supported by foreign aid and will only be positive for all when it follows economic growth.
This article was published in Cult Med Psychiatry and referenced in Primary Healthcare: Open Access

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