Healthcare Inequity: Why Does It Exist and How Can We Fix It?

ImageIn a world, it is shocking that in some countries, deaths from preventable diseases are rising and life expectancies are dropping. In many countries, this is due to a phenomenon termed “brain drain” that leaves a huge lack of trained, quality healthcare workers in developing countries and more remote areas.

For example, Africa represents twenty-five percent of the global disease burden but only three percent of healthcare workers. Many of the professionals in local healthcare systems immigrate to other developed countries such as the US, leaving a demand that wholly overwhelms the supply; patients with even the most basic diseases have no access to care. All across Africa, many patients with HIV/AIDS cannot be treated immediately and are often left on their own for days before given medical attention.

Effective sexual health care and prevention cannot be achieved without having an adequate healthcare structure and sustainable system of care. There must be an ample supply of health practitioners as well as clinics, equipment, hygiene and preventative resources. It is also important that these systems have the support of the local governments; in many developing countries, foreign aid is also crucial to serving the local population.

In order to create more efficient and accessible service in these developing countries, such as areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is important for developed countries to offer “packages of care” so that following an HIV or STI test, people are simultaneously able to receive educational material, contraceptives and other resources. Through a preventative strategy, new cases of HIV can be avoided and health literacy can be increased to improve long-term outcomes. 

In addition to supporting local health workers, I also believe it is the responsibility of developed nations to address issues of global poverty and healthcare inequity from the roots. This is why I strongly support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that require all rich countries to contribute to eight global goals through financial and human resource support. In 2000, 189 nations within the United Nations signed the Millennium Declaration, which aims to end global poverty by 2015, among other goals. The goals are as follows:

MDG 1: reduce by half (compared to 1990) the number of people living on less than a dollar a day and who suffer from hunger.

MDG 2: ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.

MDG 3: eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005 and at all education levels by 2015.

MDG 4: reduce by two thirds (compared to 1990) the mortality rate among children under five.

MDG 5: reduce by three quarters (compared to 1990) the maternal mortality rate.

MDG 6: halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.

MDG 7: reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

MDG 8: ensure that rich countries lift trade barriers to poor countries, lighten their debt burden, provide access to affordable medicines and make more financial aid available.

After reading these Millennium Development Goals, here’s some questions I’ll leave you with. Do you think it is actually possible to eliminate global poverty by 2015? Which of these goals do you think is most feasible, and which are the most difficult issues to tackle? How do you view the United Nation’s stand on global health and socioeconomic inequity?