The overall goal of primary health care is to strengthen the capacity of individuals and communities to control, improve and maintain physical, mental social and spiritual health and well being. It constitutes the first level or element of a continuing health care process and embraces health promotion, health education and prevention.
Health promotion can be defined as activities that, by accentuating the positive, assist a person to develop those resources that will maintain or enhance well-being and improve the quality of life. It refers to the activities that a person does personally in the absence of symptoms in an attempt to remain healthy; these activities do not need the assistance of a member of the health care team, Bare & Smeltzer (1996 p.46) “Health Promotion extends throughout the life span, for example the health of a child can be affected, either positively or negatively, by the health practices of the mother during the prenatal period. Hence, health promotion starts before birth and extends through childhood, adulthood, and old age”.
“Health education is an essential component of nursing care and is directed toward promotion, maintenance, and restoration of health, and toward adaptation to the residual effects of illness” Brunner & Suddarth (1986 p.6) Health education is mainly to teach people to live life to its healthiest and strive to achieve the maximum health potential. For example when persons ignore healthy lifestyles and indulge in high risk behaviours such as poor eating habits and poor environmental conditions, the consequences are many and as a result chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and many more are inherited.
Prevention of health problems constitutes a major part of community health practice. Prevention means anticipating and averting problems or discovering them as early as possible in order to minimize possible disability and impairment. It is practiced on three levels in community health: (1) primary prevention, (2) secondary prevention, and (3) tertiary prevention. Moore and Williamson (1984 p.6)
Primary prevention averts the happening of a health problem. For example a nutritionist might instruct a group of primary school children to follow a well-balanced diet during weight loss, is preventing the possibility of nutritional deficiency. Secondary prevention seeks to detect and treat existing health problems at the earliest possible stage, which might be breast self-examination programmes. Tertiary prevention reduces the severity of a health problem to its lowest level such as rehabilitation of a person after having a stroke or a chronic illness. There are many types of preventative strategies that are used at the primary health care level. These consist of immunizations and health education programmes, which involve such services as environmental health, pharmaceuticals, counselling, preventive medicine, health education and promotion, antenatal and postnatal care, maternal and child care.
The National Association of Social Workers, (NASW) defined social work as the professional activity of