People in poor countries tend to have less access to health services than those in better-off countries, and within countries, the poor have less access to health services. Although a lack of financial resources or information can create barriers to accessing services, the causal relationship between access to health services and poverty also runs in the other direction. When health care is needed but is delayed or not obtained, people’s health worsens, which in turn leads to lost income and higher health care costs, both of which contribute to poverty. Deprivations that lead to ill health are common in developing countries, and the poor in developing countries are particularly at risk. The relationship between poverty and access to health care can be seen as part of a larger cycle, where poverty leads to ill health and ill health maintains poverty.
There is ample evidence confirming that access to effective health care is a major problem in the developing world. Many millions of people suffer and die from conditions for which there exist effective interventions. Three diseases – diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria – are responsible for 52% of child deaths worldwide. For each disease there is at least one effective prevention and one effective treatment. The gap between the potential and actual benefits of health care is also large in the area of reproductive health. For example, in South Asia, less than half of pregnant women get an antenatal check-up, and only one-fifth of births are supervised by someone with medical training. Coverage rates for antiretroviral therapy for AIDS do not exceed 5% in low- and middle-income countries.
A multitude of factors is responsible for these missed opportunities to realize major gains in population health. On the demand side, cultural and educational factors may obscure the recognition of illness and the potential benefits from health care, while economic constraints may suppress utilization, even if benefits are recognized. It is estimated that deficient care seeking is a factor in 60-70% of child deaths. In Bolivia, 60% of children who died during a study period were not taken for medical treatment during the fatal sickness episode. The median study finding is that 23% of fatally ill children are not taken for treatment.
Where health care is available, the quality is often severely deficient, leaving its effectiveness well short of potential efficacy. One review concludes that, despite the claimed efficacy of primary health care interventions, the evidence is mixed on whether primary care clinics have any impact on population health. This discouraging conclusion is attributed to the poor quality of public primary health care in many parts of the developing world.
This numbers are alarming, and this should be a wake up call for each one of us. People in developing countries are fighting diseases with the little resources they have. What are we doing to make the best of our resources instead of wasting them away? Are you going to stand back and watch as people suffer a constant battle that shouldn’t exist? Health is a right, not a privilege. Every single person has the right to health care of quality. Why aren’t we all getting the same attention?
Let’s get real! Join us towards the path of good health and well being, help the world get better.