Primary health care: on measuring participation

Susan B. Rifkin, Frits Muller, Wolfgang Bichmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

227 Scopus citations


This paper considers the problems of finding measurements for the two major principles of primary health care (PHC), equity and participation. Although both are of equal importance, the authors concentrate on the assessment of participation. A methodology is put forward to define indicators for participation in health care programmes as how wide participation is on a continuum developed for each of the five factors which influence community participation. These factors are: needs assessment, leadership, organisation, resource mobilisation and management. By plotting a mark on a continuum which is defined as wide and narrow at the extremes and is connected with all other marks in a spoke arrangement, it is possible to describe a baseline for participation in any specific health programme. This baseline can be used to compare the same programme at a different point in time, to compare observations by different evaluators, and/or to compare perceptions of different participants in the same programmes. A case study provides an example of how the indicators might be used. These indicators focus on the breadth of participation and not its potential social impact, an area which is recognised to be critical for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)931-940
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • community participation
  • comprehensive primary health care
  • measurements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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