One of the studies in the August issue of Health Affairs examines the critical role of primary care in promoting overall health system performance in Latin American countries. The study, by James Macinko of the University of California, Los Angeles, and coauthors, analyzed survey data from Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, and Panama for the year 2013. The authors found significant weaknesses in primary care, with more than half of respondents lacking a regular doctor. According to the study, there were high rates of skipping needed care and accessing care on weekends. High emergency usage was also noted, along with an association between reporting a great number of primary care problems and the probability of using the emergency department for a condition treatable in primary care. (See exhibit below.)
"Respondents' reports of primary care experiences were strongly associated with assessments of how their health systems function, protect them from financial hardship, and deliver high-quality and appropriate care," the authors conclude. "These gaps require urgent attention as the population of Latin America and the Caribbean continues to age at an unprecedented rate."
Also of interest in the August issue:
"Entry Point: Tackling Disparities With Lessons From Abroad," by senior Health Affairs editor Jessica Bylander.
Health Affairs is the leading journal at the intersection of health, health care, and policy. Published by Project HOPE, the peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First articles and health policy briefs published regularly at http://www.