Impact of primary health care on mortality from heart and cerebrovascular diseases in Brazil: a nationwide analysis of longitudinal data

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Abstract

Objectives

To evaluate the impact of Brazil's recently implemented Family Health Program (FHP), the largest primary health care programme in the world, on heart and cerebrovascular disease mortality across Brazil from 2000 to 2009.

Design

Ecological longitudinal design, evaluating the impact of FHP using negative binomial regression models for panel data with fixed effects specifications.

Setting

Nationwide analysis of data from Brazilian municipalities covering the period from 2000 to 2009.

Data sources

1622 Brazilian municipalities with vital statistics of adequate quality.

Main outcome measures

The annual FHP coverage and the average FHP coverage in previous years were used as main independent variables and classified as none (0%), incipient (<30%), intermediate (30-69%), or consolidated (≥70%). Age standardised mortality rates from causes in the group of cerebrovascular (ICD-10 codes I60-69), ischaemic (ICD-10 I20-25), and other forms of heart diseases (ICD-10 I30-52), which were included in the national list of ambulatory care-sensitive conditions, were calculated for each municipality for each year. They accounted for 40% of all deaths from these groups during the study period.

Results

FHP coverage was negatively associated with mortality rates from cerebrovascular and heart diseases (ambulatory care-sensitive conditions) in both unadjusted and adjusted models for demographic, social, and economic confounders. The FHP had no effect on the mortality rate for accidents, used as a control. The rate ratio for the effect of consolidated annual FHP coverage on cerebrovascular disease mortality and on heart disease mortality was 0.82 (95% confidence interval 0.79 to 0.86) and 0.79 (0.75 to 0.80) respectively, reaching the value of 0.69 (0.66 to 0.73) and 0.64 (0.59 to 0.68) when the coverage was consolidated during all the previous eight years. Moreover, FHP coverage increased the number of health education activities, domiciliary visits, and medical consultations and reduced hospitalisation rates for cerebrovascular and heart disease. Several complementary analyses showed quantitatively similar results.

Conclusions

Comprehensive and community based primary health care programmes, such as the FHP in Brazil, acting through cardiovascular disease prevention, care, and follow-up can contribute to decreased cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality in a developing country such as Brazil.

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