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

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of