Evaluating primary care networks in low- and lower middle income countries: A scoping review

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Introduction Primary care networks (PCNs) are claimed to be an effective model to organise and deliver primary healthcare through collaborative relationships and effective coordination of primary care activities. Though increasingly implemented in different contexts, there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of PCNs in low-income and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs). Objective Our scoping review aims to understand how PCNs in LLMICs have been conceptualised, implemented and analysed in the literature and further explores the evidence of the effectiveness of these networks. Methods We structured our review using Arksey and O'Malley's framework for scoping reviews and recommendations by Levac et al. We also used the population, concept and context (PCC) guide of the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) methodology for scoping reviews to define the search strategy. The identified documents were then mapped, using Cunningham's evaluation framework for health networks, to understand how PCNs are conceived in LLMIC settings. Results We identified 20 documents describing PCNs in five LLMICs. The selected documents showed differing forms and complexities of networks, with a majority resourced by government, non-governmental and donor entities. Most networks were mandated, and established with defined goals, although these were not always understood by stakeholders. Unlike PCNs in developed settings, the scoping review did not identify integration of care as a major goal for the establishment of PCNs in LLMICs. Network evaluation relationships, outputs and outcomes also varied across the five networks in the identified documents, and perceptions of effectiveness differed across stakeholder groups. Conclusion PCNs in LLMICs benefit from clearly stated goals and measurable outcomes, which facilitates evaluation. In order to maximise the benefits, careful attention to the aspects of network design and operation is required. Future research work could shed light on some of the missing pieces of evidence on their effectiveness by, for example, considering differential consequences of modes of network establishment and operation, including unintended consequences in the systems within which they reside, and evaluating long-term implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere012505
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2023


  • Health systems evaluation
  • Health policies and all other topics
  • Public Health


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