How do healthy people benefit from an effective primary health care system? Let's look at the following hypothetical story.
Diane and Mitchell's daughter, Alex,* is 22 years old. She's healthy, and with the help of her health care team, she's planning to stay that way. Alex's health care team includes her doctor, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, dietitian, and, of course, Alex herself. They use technology to share information and work together to provide Alex with the best possible health advice and care when she needs it.
A few years ago, Alex was diagnosed with depression by her family doctor. Normally, she would have been referred to a specialist, but there are no psychiatrists in the rural community where Alex lives. Fortunately, her doctor was able to access a team of mental health professionals from a larger centre, who gave her advice on medications and psychotherapy that she used to help Alex recover from her depression. Alex was happy to be treated by her family doctor, whom she has known for years. It made it much more comfortable for her rather than travelling to see a specialist.
With her depression behind her, Alex started focusing on making sure she remained healthy. She knows that heart disease and diabetes run in her family. With the help of her doctor and the dietitian at her local clinic, she developed a healthy eating and exercise plan to help her keep in top condition and avoid health problems down the road.
Alex visited the clinic to find out more about birth control and what options were best for long-term use. The nurse at the clinic helped her learn more about birth control and safe sex. And when Alex started a new pill, she talked with her pharmacist about when it would become effective, what to do if she missed pills, and what side effects she could expect.
With her family history, Alex makes sure she sees her doctor annually for her physical exam. In the physical exam, Alex's doctor checks for early signs of breast or cervical cancer (which have the best chance of a successful recovery when treated early), as well as other health conditions that could cause problems down the road, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. She also pays attention to Alex's mental health and makes sure she talks about relationships and unusual stresses in Alex's life.
Alex also uses a toll-free health information line staffed by nurses that is available in her community. When she has questions about her health, she can call and get advice from a nurse on how to deal with her symptoms and whether she should see a doctor. Calling the line has saved her several trips to the all-night clinic when she was uncertain about the seriousness of her symptoms.
Alex's story shows how a primary health care team working together in the community can support a person to stay healthy, make good lifestyle choices, and improve her chances of avoiding health problems in the future.
* Note: The stories of Mitchell, Diane, and Alex are hypothetical stories based on the goals and vision of primary health care.
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