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Principles of Primary Health Care

Primary health care promotes health and wellness and seeks to prevent injuries and illness. It’s about more than delivering health care services. It’s about creating the conditions that help people to become and stay healthy and well. It’s also about extending the reach of health care providers into communities. Fundamentally, this goes to the core of what VON Canada is all about.

Canada is a world leader in advancing the concept of primary health care. Ottawa hosted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first International Conference on Health Promotion in 1986. At this conference, a seminal document called the Ottawa Charter was launched. It outlined a plan for action to “achieve health for all by the year 2000 and beyond”. It also defined five guiding principles for primary health care. These are:

Accessibility — or making sure that primary care services are available, affordable and provided equally to all individuals irrespective of their gender, age, ethnicity or location. At VON Canada, we believe that access to comprehensive, compassionate, family and community-centred health care is the right of all individuals regardless of their ability to pay.

Public or community participation — or involving all of community’s resources in promoting health and addressing health problems at the grass roots level. We embrace this approach at VON Canada, knowing that it helps a community to take ownership for the health and wellness of its people.

Health promotion— or helping a community to strengthen the socioeconomic conditions that contribute to good health. The Ottawa Charter defines the prerequisites for health as peace, shelter, education, food, income, sustainable resources, social justice and equity. At VON Canada, we believe in treating the whole person and that means taking into consideration how and where they live and the everyday struggles they face.

Appropriate use of technology — or using medical technologies that are affordable, feasible and culturally acceptable to individuals and the community. At VON Canada, we integrate the most recent technology into our daily work to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of our services.

Intersectoral collaboration — or recognizing that any community’s health and well-being doesn’t depend solely on effective health care services. Governments, businesses and organizations in other sectors are equally important in promoting the health and self-reliance of communities. That’s why VON Canada works in partnership with a diversity of community stakeholders to develop services that meet the unique needs of individual communities.



Accreditation Canada is an independent, not-for-profit organization that consults with experts to develop health care standards based on best practices. They accredit a wide range of health care and social services providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, clinics, and community health programs. Accreditation Canada has been helping providers improve health care quality and safety for more than 55 years.