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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 93-96

Primary or specialist medical care: Which is more equitable? A policy brief

1 The Institute of Health Systems, HACA Bhavan, Hyderabad, Telangana 500004, India
2 UNICEF Field Office, Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Correspondence Address:
Prasanta Mahapatra
The Institute of Health Systems, HACA Bhavan, Hyderabad, Telangana 500004
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 28816219

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Background. Equity in health and equitable access to healthcare has been at the core of health policy in India. The key policy challenge has been how to make that possible? Various health insurance schemes such as the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and Arogyasri seek to improve poor people's access to specialist medical care in the public and private sectors. On the other hand, access to primary medical care has been left to the supply side interventions. Methods. We did a focused review of evidence on equity aspects of primary medical care versus specialist medical care. We selected relevant publications from the Cochrane Library, PubMed and Google Scholar searches and articles snowballing out of them. Results. Higher primary care physician-to-population ratio is invariably associated with better health outcomes. Primary care may partly protect the poor from adverse effects of income inequality on health status. On the other hand, populations do not necessarily benefit from an overabundance of specialists in a geographical area. Conclusions. Three key policy lessons emerge from this review. First, states should strengthen primary medical care by upgrading health centres. Second, a family health protection plan should be introduced as a demand side intervention to deliver primary care through health centres, non-profit and for-profit clinics. Third, postgraduate courses in family medicine should be introduced for a balanced development of the specialty of primary care pari passu other specialties.

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