Enhancing Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Primary Health Care Initiative

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the mandate of the Enhancing Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Primary Health Care (EICP) Initiative?

The purpose of the Enhancing Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Primary Health Care (EICP) Initiative was to enhance the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of the delivery of primary health care in Canada. The objective, in its first phase, was to develop a set of guiding principles and a framework that will better define the relationship between the client/patient and the practitioners who comprise the primary health care system. This phase also looked at how primary health care interacts with other elements in the broader health system. The goal was not to develop a single model of primary health care, but rather, to create a more comprehensive knowledge base for future action.


What were the key deliverables of the EICP Initiative?

Specifically, the EICP Initiative delivered:

  • A set of principles and a framework that will enhance the prospects and options for more collaborative care in settings across the country;

  • Research about best practices and the state of collaborative care in Canada; and

  • Tools to help primary health care providers work together more effectively


What are the principles and framework and what difference will they make?

The EICP Initiative is supporting the transformation of primary health care in Canada through the development of a set of principles and a framework for interdisciplinary collaboration. The principles and framework defined the relationship between the client/patient and the various health professionals that make up the primary health care system, as well as how primary health care integrates with other elements in the health system.

The outcome of this Initiative was not a �delivery model� for primary health care, since the multiplicity of jurisdictions and conditions across the country would make a single �model� unrealistic. Rather, the principles are intended to guide the future development of the primary health care system. The framework described the characteristics of a systemic approach to primary health care and the elements required to support the operation of such a system. The principles and framework are relevant to various communities across the country: rural, inner city, suburban and remote.

The EICP principles and framework are clear enough to provide a vision for how the primary health care system should develop, and they provide direction to various stakeholders about what is needed to support such a system. They are relevant to various practice settings across the country, from primary health care organizations, such community health centres, to health professionals working in private practice.


What is the Primary Health Care Transition Fund?

Established in September 2000, the $800-million Primary Health Care Transition Fund (PHCTF) supported the efforts of provinces and territories – and other stakeholders – to develop and implement transitional primary health care renewal initiatives. It also enabled recipients to address primary health care issues that are common nationally or across two or more jurisdictions in Canada.

The PHCTF had five main objectives which are consistent with the benefits of primary health care: multi-disciplinary approaches; increased access; health promotion and prevention of illness and disease; integrated services; and access to essential services 24/7. Initiatives had to meet one or more of these objectives to receive funding. They had also to be transitional in nature to ensure that long-term, sustainable change is achieved over the fund's lifespan. Funding for PHCTF initiatives ended the end of March 2006.


What is the difference between Primary Health Care and Primary Care?

Communication about interdisciplinary collaboration requires common language and understanding, and so definitions and language use really matter. And there is a difference between the meaning and the appropriate use of the phrases "primary health care" and "primary care".

The EICP Initiative found that the explanation used in the preface to the report of the National Primary Health Care Conference held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the spring of 2004, illuminates this important distinction. That report, entitled A Thousand Points of Light? Moving Forward on Primary Health Care provides the following clarification.

"People are understandably weary about rehashing the difference between primary care and primary health care, but the difference is real. Primary care deals mainly with the prevention and treatment of sickness. It is what Canadians think of as front-line care, traditionally in the form of a visit to the family doctor. Primary care may involve immunization, preventative advice (stop smoking, get some exercise), diagnosis and treatment of illness, but it stops short of a comprehensive, intersectoral approach to producing or enhancing health. Perhaps most importantly, primary care is focused on individuals and families, but not the community as the unit of intervention."

"...Primary health care is a comprehensive and egalitarian idea. It connects health and health care to social and economic organization. It is organized to meet the needs of everyone, but particularly disadvantaged populations. It strikes a balance between health promotion and health care; health and social services; individuals and communities. It entails the transfer of power from professionals to citizens and breaks down many of the traditional hierarchies within health care..."

"Primary care is an easier concept to digest, and something that the health care system is willing to be held accountable for. Primary health care's breadth and long-term horizons are less well-suited to the way governments organize ministries and budgets."

"Primary care does not disappear under primary health care; it is an essential subset of primary health care. They are complementary, and neither can be effective or efficient without the other".

Get Involved

Spotlight on Collaboration

The Collaboration Toolkit is now available for your reading pleasure. This toolkit contains our last research report—Interdisciplinary Primary Health Care: Finding the Answers—and a vast warehouse containing tools that have been designed across the country to support interdisciplinary practices. The Collaboration Toolkit offers practical tips and tools such as checklists, vision and policy statements, floor plans, transfer of function agreements, and many others. It is a must-read for anyone considering—or involved in—interdisciplinary care.

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