I have received this very interesting paper on primary health care in Thailand from Mary Ditton and Leigh Lehane of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia. This is a crucially important issue for rural people in Thailand and it’s great to see some solid grass-roots research being done. Here is a brief summary:

In 2001 Thailand established Universal Health Coverage to provide primary health care (PHC) through its network of 9,738 primary care units or health centres to make health care accessible for uninsured Thais (including about 40 million rural people). However, primary health care for Thailand’s rural poor has been problematic because of a shortage of rural medical practitioners and challenges raised by epidemics such as avian influenza, SARS and HIV/AIDS.

“Towards realising primary health care for the rural poor in Thailand”, by Mary Ditton and Leigh Lehane from the University of New England, evaluated identified strengths and weaknesses in the quality of the delivery of primary health care in rural Thailand by a careful study of one “typical” primary care unit of almost ten thousand scattered throughout the country. The authors found that health care providers were knowledgeable of the way of life of their patients and their health problems. Primary health care programs (immunisations, ante- and post-natal care) were being conducted, and common infections and minor injuries were being treated. On the other hand, inadequate resources were devoted to problem recognition and definition, and health services for individuals were poorly coordinated. Because of lack of training and supervision for primary care unit staff, services needed to be supplemented by the District Hospital. As a result, patients sometimes received inadequate care because information between services was not available in a timely manner. Recommendations were made to stakeholders, including study participants, who considered them appropriate for application in this setting and possibly other rural primary health care settings in Thailand.