Inspiring medical students to choose primary health care

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Clarissa Fabiola Lapaix Nuñez, a fifth-year medical student at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

“As to diseases, make a habit of two things — to help, or at least, to do no harm.”
― Hippocrates

Primary health care (PHC) is the foundation that holds together the global health system. At its heart PHC is about caring for people, rather than simply treating specific diseases or conditions (1). If we asked a group of medical students, “Why do you want to become a doctor”, they would probably respond, “To help people”. Hence, why do young physicians generally prefer to pursue a medical specialty rather than PHC? What would be a better way to help the world by empowering cardiovascular patients to change their lifestyle and reduce risk of further disease complications?

In September 1978, the World Health Organization adopted PHC as a new model for medicine. This measure took place at the International Conference on Primary Health Care of Alma-Ata, held in the Soviet Union (1). This group of scientists created a project with the idea of a new kind of medicine, based on several strategies: 1) to have a PHC team that can meet community needs; 2) to offer universal health coverage to eliminate accessibility barriers; 3) to provide integral and integrated attention, where the individual is seen as a social and family entity; and 4) to prioritize health promotion and prevention programs in local communities. As such, each community should adapt PHC to their communities.

In the Dominican Republic (DR), PHC units were created 10 years ago, continue to be challenged in achieving universal health coverage. For example, these PHC units are funded by the National Health System (SeNaSa, Seguro Nacional de Salud), which comprised of 22% of the national budget (3). This fact may be another reason why young physicians do not pursue PHC as their future specialty.

As a medical student, I believe that the PHC model is a dream come true across the world providing essential health services and emphasizing health promotion and disease to all communities. Health systems of low-, middle- and high-income nations can adopt and prioritize PHC service delivery to all communities, which can improve basic population health indicators. Therefore, all countries will be able to set future priorities and aim to achieve the established targets of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

References

About the author

Clarissa Fabiola Lapaix Nuñez is a fifth-year medical student at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
She serves as an active member of the Standing Committee on Medical Education (SCOME) of IFMSA-Dominican Republic (ODEM) and Assistant Professor of Histology at UASD.

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