Community-oriented primary care focuses medical attention on specific populations to ensure their health needs are met. It is a multistage process that includes defining the population, performing epidemiological studies to identify issues, developing an intervention, and following up on it to determine the success rate. This includes a mix of specialties, including public health training, medicine, and statistical research. Degrees are offered in community-oriented primary care, for people interested in pursuing professions in this field.
Populations can be defined in a number of ways. They may be social, linked with specific organizations or groups, or geographic, such as residents of a given neighborhood. Cultural communities can also be identified, such as racial or religious minorities. Creating a clear definition of the population is important for conducting a story on health needs to ensure people get the most appropriate treatment.
The focus of community-oriented primary care is looking at community-based health issues to improve overall health. Individual patients may still need specific treatments to manage particular medical issues. A study might reveal that vaccination rates are low in a given community, for instance, in which case an education campaign might promote vaccines and provide information about where to get them. Statistics on vaccination rates could be used to monitor progress. At the same time people come in for vaccines, they could be screened for common health issues to determine if they need additional treatment.
Preventative care and health promotion are important aspects of community-oriented primary care. Practitioners want to limit health problems in the first place and catch them early when they do arise. They can identify specific demographic risks, such as pulmonary disease caused by living close to factories, and integrate this into a whole-community treatment plan. In addition to working in direct patient care and education, activities like lobbying for better environmental protections might be part of an initiative to improve health in a specific demographic.
Epidemiologists, primary care providers, and statisticians can work in community-oriented primary care. They cooperate with public health officials to identify specific public health threats and address them effectively. Evidence-based interventions using the outcomes of studies and clinical trials are an important part of practice, to increase the chances of success. As programs tackle health issues, their missions and needs may evolve; vaccination rates could increase, for example, but issues related to poor sanitation might persist, indicating the continued need for community intervention.