Original Research

Primary healthcare implementation in practice: Evidence from primary healthcare managers in Ghana

Nana N. Appiah-Agyekum
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 12, No 1 | a2183 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v12i1.2183 | © 2020 Nana Nimo Appiah-Agyekum | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 June 2019 | Published: 20 May 2020

About the author(s)

Nana N. Appiah-Agyekum, Department of Public Administration and Health Services Management, University of Ghana Business School, Legon, Accra-Ghana, Ghana

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Background: Primary healthcare (PHC) is a core part of healthcare in developing countries. However, the implementation of PHC since its inception in developing countries has been lethargic, inconsistent and marred by controversies.

Aim: This study investigates some of the controversies surrounding PHC implementation. It also examines how PHC is being implemented in Ghana as well as how the approaches adopted by PHC implementers influence PHC outcomes in developing countries.

Setting: This study is set in Ghana and involves national, regional and district managers of PHC.

Methods: A qualitative case study was used to gather information from 19 frontline PHC managers through semi-structured interviews. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. They were then qualitatively analysed using the thematic framework analyses approach.

Results: Findings uncover a lack of clear meaning of what PHC is and how it should be approached amongst key implementers. It also shows discrepancies between official policy documents and directives, and actual PHC practices. Findings also show a gradual shift from Alma Ata’s comprehensive PHC towards a more selective and intervention-specific PHC. Whilst donor and external stakeholders’ influence are the key determinants of PHC policy implementation, their support for vertical and other medicine-based interventions have gradually medicalised PHC.

Conclusion: There is a need to pay more attention to understanding and addressing the gaps in PHC implementation and its inconsistencies. Furthermore, the role and control of donors and external development partners in PHC policy formulation and implementation, and their concomitant effects on community participation and empowerment, must be critically examined.


primary healthcare; Ghana; Ghana health service; implementation; healthcare


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