Scaling up Primary Health care in the Philippines: Lessons from a Systematic review of Experiences of community-based Health Programs

  • Edna Estifania A. Co
  • Ruben N. Caragay
  • Jaifred Christian F. Lopez
  • Isidro C. Sia
  • Leonardo R. Estacio
  • Hilton Y. Lam
  • Jennifer S. Madamba
  • Regina Isabel B. Abola
  • Maria Fatima A. Villena
Keywords: community empowerment, community health programs, community participation, government, Philippines, primary health care


Background. In view of renewed interest in primary health care (PHC) as a framework for health system development, there is a need to revisit how successful community health programs implemented the PHC approach, and what factors should be considered to scale up its implementation in order to sustainably attain ideal community health outcomes in the Philippines.

Objective and methodology. Using the 2008 World Health Report PHC reform categories as analytical framework, this systematic review aimed to glean lessons from experiences in implementing PHC that may help improve the functioning of the current decentralized community-level health system in the country, by analyzing gathered evidence on how primary health care evolved in the country and how community health programs in the Philippines were shaped by the PHC approach.

Results. Nineteen (19) articles were gathered, 15 of which documented service delivery reforms, two (2) on universal coverage reforms, three (3) on leadership reform, and one (1) on public policy. The literature described how successful PHC efforts centered on community participation and empowerment, thus pinpointing how community empowerment still needs to be included in national public health thrusts, amid the current emphasis on performance indicators to evaluate the success of health programs.

Conclusion and recommendations. The studies included in the review emphasize the need for national level public health interventions to be targeted to community health and social determinants of health as well as individual health. Metrics for community empowerment should be developed and implemented by government towards sustainable health and development, while ensuring scientific validity of community health interventions.


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