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WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2019 Apr;8(1):21-25. doi: 10.4103/2224-3151.255345.

Accelerating reforms of primary health care towards universal health coverage in Sri Lanka.

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Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
World Health Organization Country Office for Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Since the late 1920s, the Sri Lankan health system has been based on a firm foundation of primary health care, and it has been recognized internationally as a highly successful low-cost model. However, rethinking the future health-care model has been essential, owing to the country having one of the fastest ageing populations in the world, coupled with a high premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases. To sustain past gains and meet new challenges, several models centred on an expanded primary health-care system have been trialled and refined in the past decade. Primary health care was identified as a key priority in the National Health Strategic Master Plan 2016-2025, and in 2018 the Cabinet approved the Policy on healthcare delivery for universal health coverage. This policy introduces the "shared care cluster" system, whereby an apex specialist institution serves the local primary care referral institutions. The catchment population is divided into populations of approximately 5000, for which one family doctor is responsible. Strengthening and retaining human resources at these primary-level curative institutions will be essential, especially in rural locations. Also critical will be initiatives to orient the population's health-seeking behaviours. Sustained political commitment, an effective communication strategy, a tailored health workforce policy, performance monitoring and evaluation, coordination mechanisms, and changes in administrative and financial regulations are some of the future factors that will be critical to realizing the full potential of primary health care and accelerating universal health coverage in Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka; health-care reform; noncommunicable diseases; primary health care

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