Understanding what ‘integrated people-centered health services’ means

By: Julia Holtemeyer

Earlier this year, at the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, WHO Member States officially adopted the Framework on integrated people-centred health services (IPCHS). Designed to support increasing timely access to essential health services, the Framework proposes the following five critical shifts in health care systems to make them more people-centered:

At the same time, the WHO launched the IntegratedCare4People web platform. Meant for practitioners and organizations, the platform allows for sharing knowledge and joint learning on creating more integrated and people-centered health services. Here at ASSIST, we work with the WHO to apply the new Framework in Mali and South Africa, and we also prioritize people-centered care more generally as an essential pillar of quality care.
On the USAID ASSIST Project, we have been exploring how to incorporate putting people at the center of making health care better into our improvement approach. One aspect of this is how we integrate gender into our quality improvement (QI) approach; clients, family and friends, communities, and health providers are all influenced by the culture they live in and that culture’s rules about gender, so ignoring gender would be ignoring a vital part of the people (and their local context) that the WHO Framework aims to center. Our gender-sensitive approach facilitates analyzing the social and cultural influences that determine who has access to care, who remains in care, and who receives quality care, to be able to respond appropriately. We take the different needs, constraints, and opportunities of women, men, girls, and boys into account and respond to them strategically in program design, implementation, and evaluation. By considering and responding to these differences, ASSIST QI supports health services to become more people-centered.

In Mali, ASSIST is working with WHO and the Ministry of Health to use the Framework to design, implement, and scale-up integrated maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) and nutrition intervention packages that are centered on the needs of patients, their families, and their communities. Focusing on the USAID commitment to Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths (EPCMD), we support improving access and client utilization and satisfaction with essential services during pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum care to accelerate the reduction of morbidity and mortality for mothers and babies. We consider gender-related issues of access and barriers to services for women, and engage male partners as a priority strategy to improve MNCH, raise awareness around MNCH and nutrition, and improve the social position of pregnant women.

In South Africa, ASSIST works with the Department of Health (DOH), WHO, and other partners to improve access, client utilization, and satisfaction with essential HIV services. With the ultimate goal of accelerating the reduction of morbidity and mortality for people living with HIV, ASSIST leverages the principles of the new WHO Framework to assess and improve clinical consultations by health providers during provision of care.

WHO’s new Framework offers critical concepts that need to be integrated in any effort to improve quality of care for all patients, strengthen health systems, and pursue Universal Health Coverage. Explore IntegratedCare4People.org to learn more.

This blog post was originally published on the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) project’s website on August 29, 2016.