Health crisis in developing nations & the threat of emerging new diseases

Healthcare plays a vital role especially in the circumstances of prevailing health disparities and inadequate healthcare provisioning system. Medical science has fortunately found answers to most of the dreadful illnesses, especially infectious diseases. Many medical conditions are preventable or treatable with existing medicines. However, the alarming fact is that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.7 billion people, nearly one-third of the world’s population, have inadequate or no access to these essential medicines that help prevent or cure diseases.

Those most vulnerable to existing and increasing health crises tend to be either below the poverty line or living in rural areas where healthcare is inaccessible. In many developing countries, a majority of the population in rural areas is barely able to afford two square meals daily, and thus, medicines and good healthcare remain out of reach for many of them.

Moreover, another study recently found that 10 million children die every year from preventable diseases and conditions, with almost all these deaths occurring in poor nations. It has also been estimated that prompt diagnosis and treatment of health problems in Africa and Southeast Asia alone could save approximately 4 million lives each year.

Some studies have linked health with the economic prosperity of nations and demonstrate the dramatic role HIV/AIDS epidemic has played in the declining economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. The situation will become even worse unless the world comes together to resolve the public health crisis engulfing much of the developing world. Issues that need immediate attention in the developing nations include maternal & child health issues, infectious diseases & chronic diseases control, healthcare inaccessibility etc.

As the developing world fights the health crisis, some new diseases have become a matter of concern globally. New & emerging diseases combined with the rapid spread of pathogens resistant to antibiotics and of disease-carrying insects resistant to insecticides, are daunting challenges to human health. The new diseases include lethal viral infections as well. In many cases, their source is unknown, as is the reason for their emergence. More often than not, no specific treatment is yet available for them.

The alarming fact is that many of the most powerful antibiotics have been rendered impotent recently. Unfortunately, this is happening at a time when too few new drugs are being developed to replace those that have lost their effectiveness.

Some infectious diseases that have impacted human health and development adversely in recent times include malaria, which still strikes up to 500 million people a year, killing at least 2 million in total; acute lower respiratory infections that kill almost 4 million children every year; diarrhoeal diseases, spread chiefly by contaminated water or food; Cholera epidemics occurring in countries ranging from South-East Asia to the Middle East and as far apart as western Africa and South America; HIV, the virus that causes AIDS has already infected up to 24 million adults, of whom at least 4 million have died; viral hepatitis etc.

Furthermore, health systems, and therefore health delivery around the world suffer from aggregate workforce shortages and inequitable distribution due to internal migration from rural areas to urban, international emigration to countries with better working conditions, loss of personnel from the public to the private sector, socio-economic barriers to medical education, among other factors.

Low accreditation rate in hospitals is also the challenge in several nations. Well planned infrastructure is another issue that needs to be handled. The overall healthcare expenses are increasing and insurance companies are under tremendous pressure to reduce claim ratio for which they end up passing on the cost burden to the healthcare organizations. Thus, funding for healthcare is another challenge the developing world is facing.

Of course, there cannot be a cookie cutter solution for complex healthcare problems existing across the globe. However, for the health crisis the world faces, finding comprehensive solution seems a distant possibility, but a feat definitely not impossible to achieve.