Introduction This paper synthesises evidence on the organisation of primary health care (PHC) service delivery in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the Asia Pacific and identifies evidence of effective approaches and pathways of impact in this region.
Methods We developed a conceptual framework describing key inputs and outcomes of PHC as the basis of a systematic review. We searched exclusively for intervention studies from LMICs of the Asia-Pacific region in an effort to identify ‘what works’ to improve the coverage, quality, efficiency, equity and responsiveness of PHC. We conducted a narrative synthesis to identify key characteristics of successful interventions.
Results From an initial list of 3001 articles, we selected 153 for full-text review and included 111. We found evidence on the impact of non-physician health workers (NPHWs) on coverage and quality of care, though better integration with other PHC services is needed. Community-based services are most effective when well integrated through functional referral systems and supportive supervision arrangements, and have a reliable supply of medicines. Many studies point to the importance of community engagement in improving service demand. Few studies adopted a ‘systems’ lens or adequately considered long-term costs or implementation challenges.
Conclusion Based on our findings, we suggest five areas where more practical knowledge and guidance is needed to support PHC systems strengthening: (1) NPHW workforce development; (2) integrating non-communicable disease prevention and control into the basic package of care; (3) building managerial capacity; (4) institutionalising community engagement; (5) modernising PHC information systems. ….more