Background: Social issues have prominent effects on the peoples' physical and mental health and on the health risk factors. In Iran, many organizations provide social care services to their target population. This study aimed to explore the roles and functions of Primary Health Care (PHC) system in providing social care services in Iran.
Methods: This was a qualitative study, for which data were collected via three sources: A review of the literature, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with experts and stakeholders. The main objective was to find a way to integrate social care into the Iranian PHC system. A conventional content analysis was performed to explore the data.
Results: Overall, 20 experts were interviewed and the acquired data were classified into four major categories including priorities, implementation, requirements and stewardship. The main challenges were the existing controversies in the definition of social care, social service unit disintegration, multiple stewards for social care services, weaknesses of rules and regulations and low financing of the public budget. Social care services can be divided into two categories: Basic and advanced. Urban and rural health centers, as the first level of PHC, could potentially provide basic social care services for their defined population and catchment areas such as detecting social harms in high risk individuals and families and providing counseling for people in need. They can also refer the individuals to receive advanced services.
Conclusion: Iran has a successful history of establishing the PHC System especially in rural areas. This network has an invaluable capacity to provide social health services. Establishing these services needs some prerequisites such as a reform PHC structure, macro support and technical intersectoral collaboration. They should also be piloted and evaluated before they could be implemented in the whole country.