An exploration of the role of families in providing primary healthcare for children
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Families remain a major social support system that plays a key role in the provision of primary healthcare (PHC) for children, and this role is especially important as PHC would normally take place before a child is taken to hospital for further treatment. The literature shows that although families have a direct influence on their children’s PHC, the former’s role is limited as a result of socio-economic factors such as poverty, unemployment and distance to healthcare centres. In South Africa, PHC is offered by the state but is of a lower standard than the more specialised, ‘hi-tech’ health services available in the private sector. Although the public health sector is over-stretched and under-resourced, the government has established PHC facilities in many locations throughout South Africa. This status quo requires families to play a role by knowing the locations of such facilities in order to maintain their children’s health. The provision of primary health in South Africa is a two-tiered system that requires the involvement of both families and healthcare providers. The results of the study indicated that there were various interpretations of PHC by both parents and health professionals, owing to different levels of knowledge about the concept. The lack of knowledge of the various forms of home remedies greatly affected the application of PHC in terms of a need to appreciate PHC practices in the family setting; and health professionals need to disseminate knowledge to parents on a routine basis as part of their work at hospitals. The findings furthermore suggested that parents and healthcare workers faced various challenges in the provision of PHC. The implications of the study pointed to the need for a more extensive study that engaged a high number of participants of both parents and healthcare professionals to place the results into perspective. Other implications required a concerted effort from government, parents, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders to arrive at a prudent and logical improvement of PHC in South Africa.