Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Primary healthcare remains the foundation for all in Cambodia



Primary healthcare remains the foundation for all in Cambodia

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A doctor checks on a patient at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital. Heng Chivoan

Primary healthcare remains the foundation for all in Cambodia

Forty years ago, in 1978, as Cambodia was facing its gravest hour, the countries of the world gathered in Alma-Ata in the Soviet Union to recognise health as a human right and agree to bring healthcare close to where communities live, with their full participation, and to work across sectors to achieve health for all.

This approach was called “primary healthcare”.

Subsequently, experiences in many countries have shown that implementing a primary healthcare approach has been both effective in improving health outcomes and cost-effective.

As we celebrated World Health Day this year on Sunday (commemorating the founding of the World Health Organisation), it was timely that its theme was primary healthcare – to remind all countries, including Cambodia, of its continued importance for achieving health for all.

In the 1980s and 1990s, as Cambodia rebuilt its health system, it implemented aspects of the primary health care approach, building health facilities close to communities, and prioritising prevention and care for mothers and children.

These achievements contributed to Cambodia’s impressive progress to achieve most of the Millennium Developments Goals on maternal and child health and tackling HIV, tuberculosis and malaria – one of the few countries in the world to do so.

A majority of the disease burden in Cambodia is now from noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory disease.

There are also increasing challenges with road traffic injury and mental health.

Important progress

And there is still the need to sustain efforts on maternal and child health and communicable diseases.

Recognising these challenges, the Royal Government of Cambodia has committed to achieving universal health coverage – ensuring that quality health services are accessible, affordable and acceptable for all Cambodians – by 2030, as other countries have also done as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In recent years, as part of this effort, the Royal Government has made important progress in providing social health protection for more Cambodians.

Building the capacity and quality of the first contact of care and placing these services close to communities – the most important part of primary healthcare – is just as important to prevent and treat diabetes and cancer as it is to address malaria and tuberculosis.

The primary healthcare approach thus remains the foundation of universal health coverage, and of all health services.

International experience shows that it is possible to provide more and more services in facilities like the health centres in Cambodian towns and villages that have contributed so much to the country’s health progress, or even within people’s homes. And doing so is the most cost-effective way to provide services.

Sixty-seven per cent of total health spending in Cambodia is on the first level of care, showing the high demand for primary care by the people of Cambodia.

This care is provided by health centres, but also in hospital out-patient clinics and in private clinics.

But it is 10 times more expensive to provide the same service in a hospital out-patient clinic than in a health centre.

And getting people to access healthcare early, and close to where they live, is also the best way to prevent and treat disease before complications arise.

Cambodia is well poised to build on its existing success with implementing primary healthcare as it strives to achieve universal health coverage.

Further support

Recently, at the National Health Congress, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the health sector to invest more in health personnel in rural areas.

The recently announced cash transfer scheme for pregnant women and children provides further support and incentives for people to access primary care.

As WHO, we recommit to sustaining our long history of working with the Royal Government and people of Cambodia to improve health and wellbeing, keeping primary healthcare at the centre of these efforts to achieve health for all Cambodians.

Dr Kumanan Rasanathan is the Acting Representative of WHO Cambodia.

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a