Health Services

Health services are a collection of people, organizations, procedures and other activities that deliver healthcare. Providing these services is complicated and complex, requiring a wide range of skills and resources including physician expertise, nursing care, social workers, pharmacists, dentists, medical assistants, laboratory technicians, physical therapists, dietitians, and hospital support staff. A healthy population depends on a functioning system of healthcare, which requires funding and a well-trained workforce. It also needs appropriate information on which to base decisions and policies.

The most basic type of health service is primary care, which focuses on preventive and early detection services such as immunizations, screening for diseases like cancer or heart disease, and counseling to promote healthy lifestyles. Primary care is usually the point of entry into the overall health system and may provide referrals for more specialized care.

Many countries have adopted some form of universal or equitable access to primary health care. A recent international comparison found that a country’s ability to offer primary care is highly correlated with the quality of its national health system. For example, countries that place a higher emphasis on family physicians have stronger and more efficient healthcare systems.

While many people do not have any problem gaining access to healthcare, some groups of individuals are at risk for poorer health outcomes due to limited availability or affordability of healthcare. This is the case in many industrialized nations where there are considerable trade-offs between the provision of healthcare and other social services.

In the United States, it is typical for disadvantaged populations to have less access to healthcare. As a result, these groups tend to have greater mortality rates and higher costs of healthcare than the general population. In addition, individuals with little or no regular source of healthcare are more likely to visit emergency departments for symptoms and are much less likely to have a physician as their preferred health care provider (Starfield 1998).

A primary care practitioner can recommend many different types of preventive healthcare services, which can include blood pressure checks, pap smears and mammograms. The practitioner can also encourage lifestyle changes such as breastfeeding, abstaining from smoking and maintaining a healthy diet.

The allocation of healthcare resources raises issues of distributive justice. Those who use the most healthcare resources tend to be the wealthiest in society, while those with little or no need for healthcare are often denied the benefit of these services. In order to ensure that healthcare resources are allocated fairly, it is essential to consider the needs of future generations in decision making. This could mean increasing the allocation of resources for prevention programs that could significantly improve the health of future generations.