New WHO/Europe pocketbook will support primary health care for children and adolescents

WHO/Europe has launched its first-ever “Pocket book on primary health care for children and adolescents”, a comprehensive manual for doctors, nurses and other health workers responsible for the care of children and young people in primary care settings.

Launched at an event co-organized by the WHO Athens Office for Quality Care and the Greek Ministry of Health, the pocketbook responds to calls from countries for an overhaul of primary care services for children and teenagers.

“Primary care is the most inclusive, effective and efficient approach to improving physical and mental well-being. This applies to all population groups, especially children and adolescents,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that the primary care services available for children and adolescents in our countries are not always optimal. This pocket book will enable providers to deliver on the promise of quality primary health care for children and adolescents, both in the WHO European Region and beyond.

Closing the inequality gap

Although primary care is the cornerstone of care in communities in the Region, it is not always up to standard. Too often, providers lack the knowledge and resources to provide evidence-based care in the best interests of the child or adolescent.

The new paperback aims to fill this gap by summarizing advice on how to manage and when to refer children and adolescents with common complaints and conditions. It also includes information for primary care providers to manage children and adolescents with long-term illnesses and illnesses managed by specialists.

The focus on evidence-based practices and prevention will help ensure that children and adolescents receive the care they need while avoiding unnecessary treatment and hospitalizations.

“In Greece, we are lucky to have many paediatricians, especially in big cities, but we still have many remote islands where a pediatrician is not present, and where we have to rely on younger doctors and general practitioners to treat children,” said Greek Alternate Health Minister Dr Mina Gaga. “That’s where this paperback will be extremely valuable.”

Improve mental health

In the Region, mental health services in community and primary care settings are often underdeveloped, underfunded, underprioritized and underfunded.

The pocketbook includes information on how to promote the mental health of all children, as well as how to identify and manage common mental health issues at the primary care level and through referrals.

Greece has renewed its investment in mental health services in the country, including the appointment of the Deputy Minister of Health, Ms. Zoe Rapti, who is specifically responsible for mental health.

“The National Mental Health Action Plan for Greece is being finalized. At its center will be a program for child and adolescent mental health, which the launch and implementation of this pocketbook complements in a timely and relevant way,” Ms Rapti explained.

Working with countries to improve primary health care

Within the Region, Armenia and Romania are already leading these important activities. Dr Anahit Avanesyan and Dr Alexandru Rafila, Ministers of Health of Armenia and Romania, respectively, attended the launch of the pocket book virtually and hailed the new evidence-based manual.

In their remarks, they acknowledged its role in solving common challenges faced by primary care workers in their countries and announced that translations into Armenian and Romanian would soon be available.

WHO/Europe will work with partners to ensure that the pocketbook standards are implemented in countries in the Region and included in funding schemes. The aim is for the pocket book to contribute to the evolution of health systems to enable them to provide quality health services to all children and adolescents who need them. Implementing the guidelines of the book, however, will require strong leadership, resources and political commitment from all countries.

WHO/Europe developed the pocketbook with support from the European Academy of Paediatrics (EAP), the European Confederation of Primary Care Paediatricians (ECPCP), the European Pediatric Association/Union of Societies and European national pediatric associations (EPA/UNEPSA), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Physicians’ Organization of family (WONCA).

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