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Understanding Primary Health Care

Want to know more about the world of primary health care? This collection of Guides focusses on what primary health care means, key sectors and organisations, concepts and philosophies, to assist you in better understanding primary health care and the framework that surrounds it.

Primary health care (PHC) is often the first level of contact individuals, families and communities have with the health care system. At this level people are likely to receive care from an integrated team including General Practitioners, Nurses, and Allied health care workers working together to meet the health care needs of each person. Today the focus of PHC is increasingly shifting towards prevention and avoidance of hospitalisation, whether it be through screening of individuals for specific conditions, monitoring their progress, or prescribing treatments.

All of these activities take place in the PHC environment, with needs assessment (by Primary Health Networks, and previously by Medicare Locals and Divisions of General Practice) providing information to plan and change services as needed to optimise health care. Today decisions about care often include consideration of the social determinants of health including a person’s level of education and income, but also where a person lives and works, for example in rural communities with more limited access to services. A well-functioning PHC system requires input from all of the sectors noted above and more.

If you would like to know more about PHC in Australia, the key PHC sectors and organisations, concepts and philosophies, or how it is organised in other countries please explore the below collection.

Guides in this collection


Introduction to... Primary Health Care

Includes definitions, position statements and suggested reading about Primary Health Care (PHC).


Introduction to... APHCRI Centres of Research Excellence

CRE's are funded to coordinate innovative, high quality and multidisciplinary research in primary health care policy and system improvement. They pursue collaborative research and develop research capacity in primary health care services on themes aligned with the primary health care reform agenda.

Introduction to... Medicare Locals

Provides information about documents and websites that focus on the establishment of Medicare Locals, the Australian Medicare Local Alliance and links to key resources.

Introduction to... Needs assessments in primary health care

Reflects on needs assessments in primary health care in Australia and internationally.

Introduction to... Nursing and primary health care

Provides information on the role of Australian nurses in providing PHC as part of a reformed health system. It outlines recent developments to the role and activities of nurses in Australian PHC programs and worthwhile readings.

Introduction to... Nursing in General Practice

Includes definitions, position statements, suggested reading, nursing journals and research along with other activities addressing nursing in general practice.

Introduction to... Primary Health Care

Includes definitions, position statements and suggested reading about Primary Health Care (PHC).

Introduction to... Primary health care systems

Provides information about and sources of further information on the primary health care systems in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.

Introduction to... Primary Health Networks (PHNs)

Provides information on the Australian Primary Health Networks (PHNs), including a gateway to documents, priority area research and news, informative videos and stakeholder views.

Introduction to... The former Divisions of General Practice

Addressing the issues: What are Divisions? What are Divisions doing? Definition of Rural Divisions and the Role of Divisions of General Practice

Introduction to... The social determinants of health

This guide provides key definitions of the social determinants of health (SDoH) and the importance of SDoH in all areas of government policy. It also outlines the main models and approaches to SDoH in an Australian, Canadian and European context, and profiles the key thinkers in this field.