May 16-20, 2022 is the European Public Health Week. The theme of the week is “Health throughout the life course”, and on its last day, the focus is on “Building Resilient Health Systems”.
One of the key building blocks of resilient heath systems is a strong primary healthcare system (PHCS). Primary care systems foster a preventative approach to health and strengthen healthcare systems’ performance by freeing up resources in secondary and tertiary care and reducing healthcare expenditure through earlier action. Primary care is also often the first point of contact between people living with diabetes (PwD) and healthcare professionals (HCPs), and much of the management of Type 2 diabetes takes place there. Primary healthcare professionals are responsible for ensuring optimal management of the condition. They are also ideally placed to identify individuals at high risk of developing diabetes and provide timely effective interventions. Despite the critical function of the primary care practitioners, the system is often under-resourced, under-funded and under-staffed, hindering the implementation of risk-reduction approaches and contributing to a higher disease burden for people living with diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Beyond investment in primary care infrastructure, we need to ensure that staffing levels and skills are fit for purpose; provide comprehensive education to primary HCPs on identifying diabetes and supporting PwD; as well as improve their own digital literacy. With the deployment of newer treatments and technologies, addressing the digital divide and digital literacy needs of both PwD and HCPs is critical to ensure equal access to healthcare.
During European Public Health Week, we call on all governments to review and redesign their national models of care, with a view to strengthening primary care. Redesigned primary healthcare systems with experienced and competent HCPs who put the needs of the individual at the centre of their care have the potential to improve the resilience of health systems across Europe and reduce inequalities among countries.