The development of community health services (CHS), characterised in particular by the emergence of general practitioners and the establishment of community health centres, is one of the top priorities on the policy agenda for urban health reform in China. The primary and secondary levels of hospitals are being urged to change functions, shifting from traditional hospital services to CHS. This study aimed to contribute to the development of training strategies for CHS through documenting the policy, administrative and institutional arrangements of the CHS programs, identifying performance problems, and analysing relevant determinants that underpin the practice and performance of CHS. Document analysis, indepth interview and questionnaire survey were adopted as main methodological approaches. The study was undertaken in Chengdu and Panzhihua, which included observation of 14 community health centres, interview with 23 general practitioners and managers, and a random sample survey among 1041 residents. This study revealed that the top priority of the CHS programs was to try to stay alive through competing with other health institutions for consumers who could afford medical charges and to provide clinical services that would generate good revenues. The accessibility to medical care for the community residents had not been improved significantly. Poor response to local population health issues, inefficient use of resources and poor quality of services were amongst the key performance problems. There was little prospect of the CHS institutions achieving sustainable development. There was a widespread agreement among the CHS managers and practitioners that training is an essential strategy in improving the CHS performance. However, when policy, system, and cultural barriers are not properly addressed, training means little. There were evident organisational failings and lack of inter-governmental collaborations and leaderships in developing CHS. The lack of policy coherence with respect to organisational incentives impeded the achievement of the goals of CHS. There was also a lack of consumer participation and support. These findings have implications for both policy development and training arrangements. The development of CHS needs to be considered as a system change rather than in terms of isolated institutional developments. Training arrangements for CHS need to offer competencies for a wide range of organisations and professionals to enable them to improve their daily works and also to contribute to solving some of the system problems. The training programs developed for governmental officials, hospital and CHS managers, general practitioners, community nurses, public health workers, pharmacists and other CHS practitioners need to be aligned with a unified goal and facilitate the development of the supportive environments and inter-organisational collaborations (partnerships).
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