Objectives: To identify the extent to which the Alma Ata defined Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) approach is practised and evaluated in Australia and to describe the role that GPs and other medical practitioners play in it along with implications of this for future policy in light of the Health and Hospital Reform Commission (HHRC) and Primary Health Care taskforce reports, 2009 recommendations. Methods: We conducted a narrative review of the literature (published and grey) from 1987 to mid 2007 as part of a global review carried out by teams of researchers in six regions in 2007. Results: In Australia, the CPHC approach occurs chiefly in Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services, state funded community health and in rural/remote and inner city areas. Participation by GPs in CPHC is limited by funding structures, workforce shortages and heavy workloads. Factors that facilitated the CPHC approach include flexibility in funding and service provision, cultural appropriateness of services, participation and ownership by local consumers and communities and willingness to address the social determinants of health. Conclusions: The recent HHRC and Primary Health Care Taskforce reports recommend an expansion of CPHC services as a means of tackling health inequities. The findings of this review suggest that resources will need to be directed beyond individual treatment to population health issues, cross-sector collaboration and consumer participation in order to realise the CPHC model. Without attention to these areas PHC will not be comprehensive and its ability to contribute to reducing inequities will be severely hampered. The absence of an evaluation culture supported with resources for CPHC programs and services also hinders the ability of practitioners and policy makers to assess the benefits of these programs and how their implementation can be improved. Funding structures, workforce issues and evaluation of programs will all need to be addressed if the health sector is to contribute to the goal of reducing health inequities.
- Comprehensive primary health care
- General practice
- Healthcare reform