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Gobi versus PHC? Some dangers of selective primary health care


  • Wisner, Ben


This article enters the debate concerning comprehensive versus selective primary health care by focusing on UNICEF's 'child survival revolution'. It is argued that UNICEF is dangerously mistaken in believing that its present emphasis on selective primary health care is a precursor or 'leading edge' of comprehensive primary health care. The approach of UNICEF--diffusion of a package of technologies by campaigns organized from the top down--is more likely to undermine the social basis for comprehensive care. The kinds of implementation UNICEF has chosen in order to minimize costs and maximize impact on child mortality, namely 'social marketing' via mass media and massive, ad hoc delivery systems seriously undermine the development of grassroots organization among parents and primary health care workers. Indigenuous, local organizations are distorted and limited to conduits of a delivery system. Needs are defined outside the communities affected. In addition, UNICEF's so-called revolution has in common with other selective approaches an ideology accepting as inevitable the health effects of economic crisis in the 1980s, further undermining the confidence of local groups and health workers who might otherwise conceive of their desire to control health conditions as a right. The UNICEF interventions popularly known as GOBI-FFF are 'targetted' at individuals, in particular 'ignorant' mothers. As such they are especially destructive to the process of group formation and self-organization of the poor around their just demands for water and sanitation, land, shelter, and employment. This article concludes that UNICEF's GOBI should either be abandoned or integrated into comprehensive primary health care programs that put parents and local workers in control and that emphasize continuing political struggle for health rights.

Suggested Citation

  • Wisner, Ben, 1988. "Gobi versus PHC? Some dangers of selective primary health care," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 26(9), pages 963-969, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:26:y:1988:i:9:p:963-969

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    Cited by:

    1. Rifat Atun & Thyra de Jongh & Federica V. Secci & Kelechi Ohiri & Olusoji Adeyi, 2009. "Clearing the Global Health Fog : A Systematic Review of the Evidence on Integration of Health Systems and Targeted Interventions," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 5946.
    2. Niyi Awofeso, 2011. "Leprosy: International Public Health Policies and Public Health Eras," Administrative Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 1(1), pages 1-13, September.

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