Primary Health Care

Reforms to primary health care services across Canada affect women both as the most common users and providers of health care. However, debates about primary health care reform often exclude a consideration of women’s primary health care needs and how these might be different from the needs of men. Women’s health needs are often specific to their biology and to their daily practices, roles and responsibilities. Differences among women in terms of age, culture, language, income, sexuality, ability, race/ethnicity, and geographic location also mean that significant differences exist in the health status and the need for health services among groups of women.

Common features of primary health care reform such as the expansion of access to 24 hour care, the movement to community-based care, and increased facilitation and coordination of health care services will influence women’s choices and ability to get care, as well as how they provide care.

Primary health care reform should thus begin with an understanding of what determines and promotes women’s health. This could mean the involvement of communities in decision-making, the adoption of women-centred models of care, the development of skills in gender-based analysis and gender-sensitive service planning, and an understanding of primary health care reform as about more than organizing and managing care, or being fiscally responsible.

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