In developing nations, millions of people suffer from health problems, such as infectious diseases, childbirth complications and malnutrition. A vast majority of these health problems are avoidable, but those affected the most are the poor. In the last few decades, many governments in developing nations have been making an effort to improve primary healthcare facilities and access to healthcare services, but there is still a huge disparity between the poor and rich. While in urban areas, people have more access to healthcare and usually pay out of their pockets for healthcare services, in rural areas, people are still struggling with lack of healthcare facilities, poor sanitation, no education and widespread poverty, which compound avoidable and preventable health issues.

Things are looking up

Today, developing nations realise the importance of healthcare, and governments are more willing to invest in primary healthcare, nutrition programmes and sanitation measures. Many of these nations are receiving funds from developed nations.

As part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the UK Government has committed to reducing maternal mortality, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other preventable infectious diseases, and improving maternal health in developing nations.

Charitable organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation work with governments to improve sanitation and maternal health, and provide access to clean drinking water. Other organisations such as Penny Appeal look to raise funds so that money can be invested in developing countries to eliminate hunger, provide access to clean drinking water, and help orphaned and destitute children get access to education so that they can leave behind poverty and thereby enjoy better health services.

A study by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine in the US has found that foreign aid for healthcare has a direct impact on life expectancy and child mortality in developing nations. Researchers found that this aid can increase life expectancy and reduce child mortality by bringing out lasting and significant health improvements.

The future of healthcare in developing nations

A study published in the scientific journal the Lancet in 2012 revealed that nine developing countries in Africa and Asia – Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam – are working to ensure universal healthcare programmes and systems. While this is a step forward in the right direction, there is still a lot that can be done to ensure that every person enjoys an acceptable level of healthcare regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Some of the measures that developing countries can adopt to remove disparity between the rich and poor when it comes to healthcare include the following:

  • Introducing pro-poor policies: Many developing nations have to contend with growing inequalities since the rich and educated are the only ones who benefit from technological advancements. To overcome this, governments should enact policies that promote both social and economic growth and ensure that the benefits reach the grass-roots level.

  • Spend more on education: Ensuring that the poor and underprivileged get access to education will help improve health literacy and avoid behaviours that put health at risk.

  • Making available quality health services: Governments in developing countries should channel more resources to primary healthcare services so that they can be strengthened, and people living in rural and neglected areas can benefit from them.

  • Support more charitable organisations: Many charities, both foreign and domestic, work very closely with the poor, marginalised and underprivileged. Governments should offer support to these organisations so that they can deliver much-needed healthcare services to the poor.

With many non-profit organisations from across the world helping the vulnerable and poor sections in these countries, people do have more access to better healthcare services than in the past. However, while healthcare services in many developing nations are improving, there is still a long way to go before these services become a reality for all citizens, irrespective of their social standing and education.

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