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Developing a good practice model to evaluate the effectiveness of comprehensive primary health care in local communities

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      BackgroundThis paper describes the development of a model of Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) applicable to the Australian context. CPHC holds promise as an effective model of health system organization able to improve population health and increase health equity. However, there is little literature that describes and evaluates CPHC as a whole, with most evaluation focusing on specific programs. The lack of a consensus on what constitutes CPHC, and the complex and context-sensitive nature of CPHC are all barriers to evaluation.MethodsThe research was undertaken in partnership with six Australian primary health care services: four state government funded and managed services, one sexual health non-government organization, and one Aboriginal community controlled health service. A draft model was crafted combining program logic and theory-based approaches, drawing on relevant literature, 68 interviews with primary health care service staff, and researcher experience. The model was then refined through an iterative process involving two to three workshops at each of the six participating primary health care services, engaging health service staff, regional health executives and central health department staff.ResultsThe resultant Southgate Model of CPHC in Australia model articulates the theory of change of how and why CPHC service components and activities, based on the theory, evidence and values which underpin a CPHC approach, are likely to lead to individual and population health outcomes and increased health equity. The model captures the importance of context, the mechanisms of CPHC, and the space for action services have to work within. The process of development engendered and supported collaborative relationships between researchers and stakeholders and the product provided a description of CPHC as a whole and a framework for evaluation. The model was endorsed at a research symposium involving investigators, service staff, and key stakeholders.ConclusionsThe development of a theory-based program logic model provided a framework for evaluation that allows the tracking of progress towards desired outcomes and exploration of the particular aspects of context and mechanisms that produce outcomes. This is important because there are no existing models which enable the evaluation of CPHC services in their entirety.

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          Health promotion often comprises a tension between 'bottom-up' and 'top-down' programming. The former, more associated with concepts of community empowerment, begins on issues of concern to particular groups or individuals, and regards some improvement in their overall power or capacity as the important health outcome. The latter, more associated with disease prevention efforts, begins by seeking to involve particular groups or individuals in issues and activities largely defined by health agencies, and regards improvement in particular behaviours as the important health outcome. Community empowerment is viewed more instrumentally as a means to the end of health behaviour change. The tension between these two approaches is not unresolvable, but this requires a different orientation on the part of those responsible for planning more conventional, top-down programmes. This article presents a framework intended to assist planners, implementers and evaluators to systematically consider community empowerment goals within top-down health promotion programming. The framework 'unpacks' the tensions in health promotion at each stage of the more conventional, top-down programme cycle, by presenting a parallel 'empowerment' track. The framework also presents a new technology for the assessment and strategic planning of nine identified 'domains' that represent the organizational influences on the process of community empowerment. Future papers analyze the design of this assessment and planning methodology, and discuss the findings of its field-testing in rural communities in Fiji.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia
            BMC Fam Pract
            BMC Fam Pract
            BMC Family Practice
            BioMed Central
            15 May 2014
            : 15
            : 99
            Copyright © 2014 Lawless et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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