Evidence brief: strengthening primary healthcare in Canada

    Publication year: 2009

    Primary healthcare includes first-contact services delivered by a range of providers. Most commonly in Canada these providers are general practitioners and family physicians. However, increasingly these providers can also include nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and telephone advice lines, among others. Primary healthcare also serves a co-ordination function to ensure continuity of care as patients seek more specialized services within the health system.

    Health Canada defines the list of primary healthcare services as potentially including:

    “1) prevention and treatment of common diseases and injuries; 2) basic emergency services; 3) referrals to/coordination with other levels of care (such as hospitals and specialist care); 4) primary mental healthcare; 5) palliative and end-of-life care; 6) health promotion; 7) healthy child development; 8) primary maternity care; and 9) rehabilitation services.”(1) However, whether any given service is defined as a primary healthcare service per se, or as a service “coordinated” by primary healthcare providers, can vary by jurisdiction and even by organization within a jurisdiction.