Access to Primary Health Care in Pakistan
People living in low- and middle-income countries- including Pakistan- often do not have the benefit of primary health care (PHC) programs for early detection and treatment of people with risk factors for multiple diseases.
50% of the population in Pakistan does not have access to primary healthcare services, and approximately 42% of the population does not have health insurance.
People who suffer from cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases have less access to effective and equitable health care services which respond to their needs. As a result, for many people detection is often late in the course of the disease and people die at a younger age from such diseases, often in their most productive years.
The poorest people in Pakistan are most affected. At the household level, evidence is emerging diseases contribute to poverty due to catastrophic health spending and high out-of-pocket expenditure.
Factors Affecting Access to Primary Health Care in Pakistan
Primary healthcare providers offer a usual source of care, early detection, and treatment of disease, chronic disease management, and preventive care, such as flu shots, blood sugar testing, and COVID-19 testing.
However, many people face barriers to accessing primary health care, which can lead to disparities in health outcomes.
Some of the factors that affect access to primary health care in Pakistan include:
1. Education and Awareness Barriers
Poverty and lack of education, along with other social determinants, are proven barriers to healthcare in Pakistan. People living in poverty usually haven’t been educated about their health. This lack of education often leads to low life expectancies and high mortality rates. Poor people often don’t know when, why, or where to seek primary healthcare.
A lack of education and awareness about the origin of disease often leads to social stigmas. This can prevent patients from seeking the healthcare they need.
2. Financial Barriers and Lack of Health Insurance
For many, lack of financial resources is a primary barrier to access primary healthcare in Pakistan.
Moreover, people without health insurance are much less likely to seek preventive or primary care services. This often leads to poor health outcomes. People without health insurance often put off getting care when they’re ill or injured. Since people with health insurance are more likely to seek timely care for illnesses and injuries.
In addition, uninsured children are also less likely to get vaccinated, which is a routine primary care service.
3. Geographic and Transportation-Related Barriers
Factors such as travel distance and the supply of primary care providers also limit people’s ability to get primary health care. This is especially true for rural residents, who must often travel long distances to see a doctor. Consequently, they are less likely to seek preventive care.
4. A Shortage of Primary Healthcare Providers
Another obstacle to seeking primary healthcare in Pakistan is the lack of primary healthcare providers. Rural communities in Pakistan have fewer providers than urban communities. This relative shortage of healthcare providers makes it harder for rural residents to access primary healthcare.
While there is a shortage of primary healthcare physicians across the country, the lack of doctors in rural settings is more acute.
5. Poor Quality of Services in Primary Healthcare facilities
Many factors can enhance or inhibit the quality of medical services in Pakistan. Individual, organizational, and environmental factors all play a role. For example, individual factors may include the level of experience and training of the doctor or nurse. Organizational factors may include the availability of resources, such as medical supplies and equipment. Environmental factors may include the infrastructure or the condition of the hospital.
All of these factors can have a positive or negative impact on the quality of care that patients receive.
Expanding the reach of basic primary healthcare services is crucial to improving health. By providing ready access to basic healthcare services primary care can reduce hospitalizations and mortality, increase life expectancy, and deliver better overall health.