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Public Health Corner December 2007

You will notice that we write quite often about the goal of providing primary health care to the people in the area surrounding our clinic site in Gatineau. You may wonder what, exactly, is primary health care? Basically, it refers to the first level of health care in the community and may include some or all of the following:

  • First aid

  • Immunizations

  • Treatment of common (endemic) diseases

  • Nutrition education

  • Preventive activities

  • Family planning

  • Protection of water sources

  • Sanitation

  • Peri-natal care

Many of the services mentioned above can be provided by community health agents – trained lay persons who are stable members of the community and who carry out community education, first aid, newborn checks, weighing of babies, etc. They act as the first providers of health care in the community and can refer patients to the clinic for more definitive care when needed. Health agents also keep track of all pregnancies, births and deaths in the community and usually conduct periodic censuses of the community for statistical purposes. Of the sixteen communities we visited in our initial needs and resource assessment, only three received the services of a community health agent. Community leaders everywhere expressed a desire to have health agents in their community in the future; a desire we hope to help them fulfill.

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