Primary health care, now and forever? A case study of a paradigm change

Mrigesh Bhatia, Susan Rifkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The year 2008 marked the 30th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration that made Primary Health Care (PHC) the global health policy of member states of the World Health Organization (WHO). Why has PHC remained relevant? In part, this is because of growing evidence that health is a result of social, political, and economic environments, not merely of control of diseases and infirmities through interventions based on biomedical science. Using the conceptual framework developed by Thomas Kuhn, this article traces the emergence of PHC as a new paradigm based on social determinants to address poor health among populations (not individuals), especially those that are low-income. It traces the history of PHC over the last 30 years, focusing on policy developments within WHO. It selects three issues: definitions of PHC; financing and delivery of health services, including lay people's involvement in health care, as examples of the new paradigm; and opposition by those whose concept of health is based on the control of disease and infirmities paradigm. The article concludes by asking whether PHC will continue to be relevant and whether the question mark in the title of this article will be removed in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-471
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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