Primary Health Care (PHC) has been identified and used as an innovative approach to health care in the developing world. The concept of PHC was established at the joint World Health Organisation (WHO)/United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 1978 where it was acknowledged that health was not just a concern for health care professionals but the concern of society as a whole. PHC in communities means enabling individuals and organisations to improve health through informed health care, self help and mutual aid. Successful PHC projects have emphasised a process that values empowerment, partnership and advocacy when designing and implementing health care interventions.
PHC is “the first level of contact of individuals, the family and community with the national system, bringing health care as close as possible to where people live and work, and constitutes the first element of a continuing health care process” (Alma Ata Declaration 1978).
The National Strategy for Traveller Health 2002-2005 recommended the development of PHC projects in the Traveller community based on the communities own values and perceptions so that positive outcomes can have a positive effect. A PHC project was piloted in October 1994 by Pavee Point in partnership with the then Eastern Health Board in the Finglas area; there are now over 40 PHC projects nationally.
The Primary Health Care Projects follow the core principles of:
- Establishing a model of Traveller participation in the promotion of health
- To develop the skills of Traveller women in providing community-based health services
- To liaise and assist in creating dialogue between Travellers and health service providers.
- To highlight gaps in health service delivery to Travellers and work towards reducing inequalities that exist in established services.
The Role of the Community Health Worker (CHW) is to:
- Promote health by delivering health information to provide a better life for the Traveller community
- Link with services and trying to help service providers understand our culture
- Reach out to the community
- Signpost – by helping direct people to the relevant appropriate services
- Represent Travellers positively
- Build relationships with the settled community
- Change the future for Travellers for next generation
- Look at broader determinants of health such as Domestic Violence, Accommodation, education, discrimination, environment
- Go out and give information to other Travellers on health for example, cancer screening , child health, maternal and infant health, cardiovascular health and promoting positive mental health
- Attend meetings – to find out more information so we can give out more and for settled people to understand issues for Travellers