Hesperian Health Guides

The Medical System

illustration of the below: different levels of community medical care
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health promoter
health promoters
and nurses
doctors and
doctors, nurses,
and specialists
Not all communities have all levels of medical services. However, whatever the combination of services available, women (and any other sick people) will receive better care if there are good links between them.

Important Health Services

The medical system offers many different kinds of services. Some services, like surgery, x-rays, or ultrasounds are usually only available in hospitals. But the following services that women need should be offered at low cost at the community level:

  • health information so that everyone can make better decisions about their health, treat health problems correctly, and prevent illness.
  • immunizations or vaccinations that can prevent many diseases, including tetanus, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, tuberculosis, rubella, and hepatitis.
  • care during pregnancy (prenatal care) that can help a woman find and treat problems affecting her or her unborn baby before they become serious.
  • family planning services and supplies. Family planning can save lives by helping women control how many children they have, and the amount of time between births.
  • health exams to help find and treat problems such as weak blood (anemia), high blood pressure, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.

Tests can give more information about possible causes of health problems. Some tests, like Pap tests for example, require some training but no expensive equipment. These tests should be offered at the community level. Some health centers have laboratories with the equipment needed to get the results of different tests. However, often a woman will need to go to a hospital to be tested.

Other services are only available in hospitals. If a woman has a serious illness, complications from childbirth or abortion, or if she needs an operation, she will probably have to go to a hospital.

This page was updated:17 Apr 2019