life expectancy in the philippinesFactors such as educational status and public health expenditures have impacted life expectancy in the Philippines, a tropical nation located in the Pacific Ocean. Here are 10 things to know about life expectancy in the Philippines.

10 Things to Know About Life Expectancy in the Philippines

  1. General statistics: Life expectancy in the Philippines at birth increased to approximately 71 years in 2018. The mortality rate among both adult men and women has similarly decreased over time. The mortality rate for adult men decreased from about 308 deaths per 1,000 in 1960 to 235 deaths per 1,000. In addition, the mortality rate for adult women also decreased over time from approximately 262 deaths to 131 deaths per 1,000 adults.
  2. Socioeconomic and educational status: Many older Filipinos have reported better health, enhanced community participation and greater financial stability. Older Filipinos also explained that they had the ability to have enhanced stability later in life. Yet those with higher socioeconomic status reported more enhanced quality of life than those of lower socioeconomic status.
  3. Disease: The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the leading cause of death in the Philippines was cardiovascular disease. This caused about 35% of all deaths. Communicable maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions caused approximately a quarter of all deaths. Cancer caused another 10% and injuries 7%.
  4. Premature deaths: The risk of premature deaths as a result of non-communicable diseases (NCDS) has remained fairly constant over time at more than 30% in males. The risk of premature deaths in females was more than 20%. The WHO expects a similar trend over time until approximately 2025.
  5. Risk ractors: Risk factors specifically relevant to life expectancy in the Philippines include obesity, raised blood pressure and tobacco use. The percentage of the population that is obese has increased slightly over time, with higher projected linear trends by 2025. In contrast, the percentage of the population with raised blood pressure has remained mostly constant over time, with a similar projected linear trend. However, the percentage of the population that smokes is expected to decrease over time, with the greater change being predicted in males.
  6. National system response: The Philippines has implemented drug therapy in order to prevent both heart attacks and strokes. More than half of all health facilities reported implementation of cardiovascular disease guidelines, and many primary health care centers explained that they offered cardiovascular disease risk stratification. Four out of six of all essential NCD technologies were “generally available,” whereas 40% of essential NCD medicines were “generally available.” This is an example of how medical care can improve the life expectancy in the Philippines.
  7. Housing quality: A study conducted in Iloilo in the Visayas region of the Philippines analyzed what impacts childhood survival. The researchers examined factors like housing construction supplies and toilet services. Children from housing of higher quality had a higher likelihood of living to five years old than children from housing of relatively lower quality. As such, socioeconomic status determines life expectancy in the Philippines to some extent.
  8. Public health expenditures: From 1981 to 2010, health expenditure per capita increased by approximately 6.49%. GDP also increased by about 11% on average. At the same time, infant and under-five mortality rates decreased. In addition, life expectancy increased. 
  9. Education expenditures: In a study conducted in 2009, only 3% of government expenditures were allocated toward education. The researchers found that “Philippine provinces could use 52% of their budgets to attain current levels of human development indicators.” Ultimately, the researchers determined that increasing government spending toward education would increase life expectancy in the Philippines.
  10. Immunizations: An essential factor in lowering both morbidity and mortality is the sufficient implementation of universal childhood immunizations. In 2003, only 69% of Filipino kids were sufficiently vaccinated. Mothers with less education and who attended only four antenatal visits were found less likely to fully immunize their children.

Life expectancy in the Philippines is a complex issue. Greater awareness of the factors that affect it could contribute to better health outcomes and, consequently, higher life expectancy in the Philippines.

— Aprile Bertomo
Photo: Flickr

Hesperian Health Guides
The average global life expectancy is now above 70 years, and infant, neonatal and maternal mortality and infectious diseases have declined all over the world. Unfortunately, though, the statistics hide a crucial disparity: the inequality of life expectancy. This disparity highlights the health issues that continue to plague poor countries. For example, while life expectancy in Japan is 83 years, it is 30 years less in a poorer country like the Central African Republic. People continue to die of preventable diseases because of a lack of funding and health education. Fortunately, Hesperian Health Guides is there to help.

Hesperian Health Guides is a nonprofit that fights to bring life-saving healthcare information to even the most remote corners of the world. Its mission is to work toward a better future for everyone. It wants an empowered future where everyone has the tools and education necessary to control and understand their health.

Health

Though not founded until 1973, the spirit of Hesperian Health Guides started in the early 1970s in Ajoya, Mexico. There, a group of volunteers put together a simple pamphlet. This pamphlet included medical knowledge to help locals take care of their health needs in the absence of qualified doctors. Established as the Hesperian Foundation, the organization published the pamphlet, with “Donde No Hay Doctor” as the title. Four years later, the organization published “Where There is No Doctor,” an English translation. This publication later became the most widely read health book in the world.

Work

In collaboration with countless health workers, doctors, locals and volunteers, Hesperian Foundation, renamed Hesperian Health Guides in 2011 to more clearly communicate its mission, continues to publish and translate texts regarding all kinds of health concerns, spanning from women’s health to handicap health, and everything in between. A digital platform has also been available since 2011. It allows individuals better access, translations and downloads of additional medical information.

Accessibility

To further its mission of providing accessible healthcare information for all, Hesperian Health Guides are published in over 85 languages. The translation is in part facilitated by the nonprofit’s open copyright policy, which permits the translation, modification and distribution of its life-saving texts without requesting royalties in order to facilitate the speed and spread of information to needy communities. In addition, local healthcare workers collaborate on both print and online content. Their input presents texts in simple, culturally-sensitive languages and illustrations, benefiting those with little to no education.

Impact

Healthcare workers, members of the Peace Corps, educators, community leaders, volunteers and missionaries use Hesperian Health Guides in over 220 countries around the world. Benefited communities have written to Hesperian Health Guides to testify to the cumulative effect health education has on vulnerable communities. The guides, however, also empower individuals. Through comprehensive information and small action-tasks, people are able to take better care of themselves and others. They can help by learning simple tasks like disinfecting surgical tools or building a small water filter.

Hesperian Health Guides is working to raise the life expectancy of everyone by spreading health information to many neglected people. It is saving lives one book at a time.

– Margherita Bassi
Photo: Flickr

health sector communication
Communication is key when it comes to developing a well-performing healthcare system. Ineffective communication within healthcare systems “increases the likelihood of negative patient outcomes,” overall costs for healthcare systems, and “patient utilization of inpatient and emergency care.” Meanwhile, sound health sector communication ensures the maintenance of overall health and helps prevent diseases and premature death. Thus, it is important to ensure that healthcare systems across the globe are well equipped and supported. Recent developments in mobile technologies have made it easier to do so and transformed health-sector communication in several countries.

mHERO

A recently developed mobile application, called mHERO, has become one of the latest mobile applications to demonstrate the powerful and wide-reaching role that technology plays in health-sector communication. Created in 2014 by IntraHelath International and UNICEF, mHERO is a mobile-based application used by healthcare workers and ministries of health in order to communicate and coordinate effectively and efficiently. The application was developed during the 2014 Liberian Ebola outbreak after recognizing the need for a way to communicate urgent messages to frontline healthcare workers, to collect data concerning outbreaks development, and to provide support and training.

Messages sent through the application are transmitted through basic text or SMS. The app is compatible with most cellular devices. By merging existing health information systems, such as Integrated Human Resources Information System (iHRIS) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), with popular communication platforms, such as RapidPro, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, mHERO acts as a cost-efficient, accessible and sustainable resource for many healthcare systems.

Implementation in Liberia 2014

The 2014 West African Ebola outbreak overwhelmed the Liberian healthcare sector. The absence of effective communication channels blocked the supply of vital information from health officials to health workers. UNICEF and IntraHealth International created mHERO to address the communication challenge. The application was initially designed to suit the needs of the Liberian healthcare system, utilizing the technology that was already available in the country. It then became the responsibility of the ministry of health to effectively manage and maintain the application’s implementation and its continued use.

Liberia utilized mHERO to validate healthcare facility data, to update health workers and to track which facilities need additional resources. Today, health officials use mHero to coordinate the country’s response to COVID-19. mHERO has become an integral part of the Liberian healthcare system, maintaining a vital role in health-sector communication.

Development and Reach

Guinea, Mali and Sierra Leone followed Liberia’s lead with the mHero integration process. The implementation guidelines and intent of use in these countries have generally remained the same as Liberia’s. Mali, however, has implemented the application with a need to train and develop the skills of healthcare workers.

Uganda, as of 2020, has also incorporated mHERO into its healthcare system with the intent of reducing the spread of COVID-19. The application has allowed for easier COVID-19-related communication between ministries of health, health officials and healthcare workers.

Uganda employes a developed form of the application with an extension called FamilyConnect. The extension sends “targeted lifecycle messages via SMS to pregnant mothers, new mothers, heads of household and caregivers about what they need to do to keep babies and mothers safe in the critical first 1,000 days of life” as long as they have been registered with the Ministry of Health’s Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH). Mothers can register themselves or can choose to have registration done by a community health worker.

Future Plans

UNICEF and IntraHealth International want to expand access to mHERO. Counties in East and West Africa have indicated an interest in implementing the application. UNICEF and IntraHealth International intend to continue to support the ministries of health and healthcare systems in which mHERO has already been implemented. They also hope to find new ways to encourage ministries of health “to understand the interoperability of the technology, the processes for implementation and best practices to using mHero data.”

Overall, mHERO has substantially improved health-sector communication within several countries, proving the application’s potential for revolutionizing health-sector communication throughout the world. Developments can be made to expand the application’s capabilities and reach, as proven in Uganda. The application is a sustainable and cost-efficient resource for healthcare systems and helps reduce the chances of premature death along with the spread of diseases and misinformation. It provides crucial support to healthcare workers, especially during times of epidemics, increasing the overall quality of healthcare and life.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Madagascar
In 2014, Madagascar partnered with the World Health Organization to implement the Disability Action Plan. While there are no specifics on the number of disabled persons in Madagascar, an article in the Journal of Rehabilitation Methods estimates that about 2.8 million persons with disabilities exist in the country. The goals of the Action Plan are to increase access for persons with disabilities to healthcare services and programs, extend support services and rehabilitation, and strengthen data collection on disability so it can be compared internationally. Organizations such as Humanity and Inclusion have also been working to improve the correlation between disability and poverty in Madagascar.

Access to Rehabilitation

The regions around Madagascar have about 1.6 physicians for every 10,000 people, whereas Madagascar has about 1. Eight rehabilitation specialists were trained by “A Rehabilitation Training Partnership in Madagascar” in 2015, contributing to the now 10 total specialists in the country. This means limited access to medical professionals trained in rehabilitation for persons with disabilities

Rehabilitation for people with disabilities can span from fitting them with orthopedic limbs and hearing aids to providing people with mental disabilities education on how their disability affects them as well as how to work with it in their daily lives. Sufficient rehabilitation for persons with disabilities was low in 2011, with The World Health Organization reporting that about 3% of people received it globally. People often view disability and poverty in Madagascar, and globally, as a cycle. A 2017 study called “Poverty and disability in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review” reported that poverty and disability appear to exist in a cycle in lower and middle-income areas, where poverty can lead to disability and disability can lead to poverty.

How Disability Impacts Poverty

According to “A Survey of World Bank poverty Assessments” by Jeanine Braithwaite and Daniel Mont, when receiving the same income as persons without disabilities, persons with disabilities will have a lower standard of living. This is due to the different needs of persons with disabilities. Braithwaite and Mont’s studies into disability in developing countries revealed that households with persons with disabilities were slightly more likely to be in poverty.

How Poverty Impacts Disability

Poverty has been shown to limit access to healthcare in Madagascar. About 75% of Madagascar’s population lives below the international poverty line, according to The World Bank. The cost of healthcare, and transportation to healthcare centers, can be barriers for people in poverty to accessing treatment. USAID reported that less than 40% of Madagascar’s population lives within an hour’s walk, or 5 kilometers, from a healthcare center, meaning many people face additional transportation costs when they need to access healthcare.

A study about the barriers to implementing the Disability Action Plan in Madagascar stated that of “disability-adjusted life” in 2004, 29% was caused by non-communicable diseases. The report concluded that the data correlates with limited access to treatment, revealing a link between disability and poverty in Madagascar through the way that poverty impacts healthcare access.

Solutions

Madagascar has previously passed the Law on Disability, which promoted the freedoms and equal rights of persons with disabilities. The National Decade of Disabled Persons, a time frame in which the government would work to improve conditions for those with disabilities, was ratified in Madagascar in 2002 and ran from 2003-2013. Since passing those pieces of legislation, Madagascar has been working to implement The World Health Organization’s global Disability Action Plan since 2014. Expectations have determined that it will wrap up in 2021.

The country has already made some strides toward completing the program and impacting disability and poverty in Madagascar. In 2015, Madagascar ran a workshop and training program in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which the Rehabilitation Medicine in Madagascar and a counterpart in the United Kingdom then delivered. This workshop trained and licensed eight new doctors. The doctors have now created the Association of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine of Madagascar (AMPRMada), which has created a database for Madagascar rehabilitation centers to use. Today, according to an AMPRMada report, its database greatly helps rehabilitation planning nationally because it provides a single place to access all the rehabilitation centers’ data.

Humanity and Inclusion have also been working to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in Madagascar. The organization has been in Madagascar for 30 years. One of its ongoing projects focuses on ensuring persons with disabilities have access to adequate rehabilitation by:

  • Examining barriers to accessing rehabilitation services
  • Assessing the related economic areas
  • Setting up and improving rehabilitation services and “orthopedic fitting,” which means ensuring things like prosthetic limbs and metal braces fit patients correctly
  • Looking into increasing “education, training, and networking” in order to increase the number of rehabilitation workers
  • Improving funding for rehabilitation services
  • Keeping track of how the “National Rehabilitation Plan” progresses
  • Raising awareness

A report that details the progress of ongoing Humanity and Inclusion projects estimated that, when it is completed, its rehabilitation project will benefit 5,000 people, 47% of whom are children with disabilities.

It can sometimes be hard to calculate the effects of disability in Madagascar due to a lack of data. Research studies have, however, been able to estimate the number of disabled persons and the link between disability and poverty in Madagascar. Through the country’s legislation and partnerships with outside organizations, such as The World Health Organization, Madagascar is continuing to address and attempt to improve access to healthcare and rehabilitation for persons with disabilities. Organizations like Humanity and Inclusion have been contributing to those changes with ongoing projects that address access to rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities.

– Melody Kazel

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in UzbekistanUzbekistan is a former Soviet country and many consider it to be the population center of Asia with a young population. Since its independence in 1991, the country has diversified its agriculture, while keeping a significant agricultural base to its economy. The quality of healthcare in Uzbekistan endured a drop after its independence from the USSR but now is on the upward trend, even though it remains low in global rankings. Here are seven facts about healthcare in Uzbekistan.

7 Facts About Healthcare in Uzbekistan

  1. Under Soviet control, all healthcare in Uzbekistan was free. However, the government focused on access and less on outcome, leading to weaknesses when dealing with sickness and disease, especially in rural communities. Meanwhile, about 27% of hospitals in rural areas had no sewage and 17% had no access to running water, while doctors received 70% of the salary of a farmer, a common Uzbek job. Now, reforms focused on rural areas have improved conditions in all hospitals, and doctors now make 26 times the amount of a rural farmer.
  2. In Uzbekistan, most people rely on public healthcare providers, organized in three layers: national, regional and city. Private healthcare is minimal due to unsafe practices in treatment and surgery. As a result, the government is the principal employer of health workers, as well as the primary purchaser and provider of health-related goods and services.
  3. Spending on healthcare in Uzbekistan has increased from the country’s independence in 1991, as the country aimed to westernize and reform. Uzbekistan’s current health expenditure is 6.4%. The government health spending increased from $36 to $85 per person; out of pocket spending almost doubled from $37 to $69 per person, and developmental assistance doubled from $3 to $7 per person in the 30 years from its independence. The increased funding led to higher availability in healthcare, especially in rural areas, and better quality of care.
  4. In the past 30 years, Uzbekistan has implemented healthcare reforms in rural areas. Some improvements include increasing sanitation levels in hospitals and healthcare availability, allowing for all patients to get better care. Overall, the under-5 mortality rate has decreased by 50%, and healthcare access and quality (HAQ) grew from 50.3 to 62.9 from 1990 to now.
  5. The physician’s density is low, at 2.37/1000 people, mostly due to the emigration of skilled professionals, even though the median pay for physicians has sharply increased to about $13,000 a year. On the other hand, the hospital bed density is higher than in some highly developed countries, such as the United States, at four for every 1,000 people.
  6. Uzbekistan ranks low in maternal and infant mortality. At 29 deaths out of 100,000, it ranks 114 in maternal mortality. At 16.3 deaths out of 1,000, it ranks 93 in infant mortality. Although its healthcare system has gotten better with reforms in sanitation and access to healthcare, Uzbekistan still needs to create more improvements, as the mortality rate is still high.
  7. Uzbekistan is also low-ranking in adult health. The country holds the rank of 125 in life expectancy, with an average lifespan of 74.8 years. As for the quality of health, Uzbekistan ranks 115 in HIV/AIDS, with a prevalence of 0.2% and ranks 123 in obesity, with a prevalence of 16.6%.

Project Hope

Uzbekistan has not accomplished everything on its own. Many charities have worked with Uzbekistan, such as Project Hope. In 1999, Project Hope established its first office in Uzbekistan, with a focus on reducing child and maternal mortality rates, through the Child Survival Program and Healthy Family Program. It created initiatives, as well as opportunities for sexual education for the new mothers. Since then, under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Project Hope has focused on creating opportunities for AIDS-focused healthcare and education.

Uzbekistan has made progress in healthcare from the time of its independence, but it still has a long way to go. As Uzbekistan’s government continues to implement reforms heavily focusing on rural areas, it will most likely continue on its upward trajectory and create a health system that is beneficial to all of its citizens. As healthcare grows, poverty will decrease. Currently, Uzbekistan’s most poor are in rural areas, the areas with the least access to healthcare, as well as the lowest levels of sanitation. If Uzbekistan continues making reforms, rural areas will receive more healthcare, decreasing the disadvantage of living there, and therefore increasing the quality of life for Uzbekistan’s poor.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

dementia in developing countriesThough dementia is traditionally thought of as being prevalent only in the developed world, it is now occurring at higher rates in developing countries. Currently, 67% of people with dementia worldwide reside in low- and middle-income nations, and researchers predict that number will reach 75% by 2050 in tandem with these nations’ aging populations. Because health and social care services in these countries are already strained or non-existent, dementia in developing countries poses a unique set of challenges.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease. But as with nearly all forms of dementia, there is progressive brain cell death, so as its symptoms progress, cognitive functions become severely impaired. As early as the second stage of mild dementia, individuals may require intensive care and supervision from others with tasks in their daily life. However, healthcare systems are stretched thin in many developing countries. Often, their frontline providers may not be adequately trained in providing the long-term care needed for these conditions. Even when assisted-living arrangements in a medical facility are an option, people with dementia have limited autonomy over their care because there are few systems in place to monitor the quality of dementia care in poorer nations.

Treating Dementia in Developing Countries

Due to the lack of formal care, people with dementia in the developing world tend to rely upon systems of “informal” care by family, friends, or other community members. These support mechanisms are under great strain due to the economic, emotional and physical demands of unpaid, and often unsubsidized, caregiving. Caring for someone with dementia can demand up to 74 hours a week and cost around $4600 a year. Furthermore, symptoms associated with the later stages of dementia, such as aggression, depression and hallucinations can have distressful psychological effects for these caregivers. In fact, 45% of family caregivers report experiencing distress, and 39% have feelings of depression.

Social Stigmas Surrounding Dementia

The social stigma associated with mental health diagnoses as well as general health illiteracy and unfamiliarity with dementia also contributes to inequities within the quality of dementia care. A study conducted in India suggested that 90% of dementia cases in low and middle-income nations go undiagnosed. Even healthcare professionals may lack the awareness to identify early signs of dementia. The wide-spread myth that dementia is not a medical issue in developing countries can mislead providers to dismiss dementia’s symptoms as characteristics indicative of normal aging.

Furthermore, in some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, such as rural Kenya and Namibia where knowledge of dementia is not widespread, people may associate dementia with witchcraft or punishment for previous wrongdoings. Such beliefs further entrench the stigma surrounding it into the broader culture, discouraging people with dementia from seeking an official diagnosis. Organizations like the Strengthening Responses to Dementia in Developing Countries (STRiDE) Project have worked specifically towards reducing this stigma.

Understanding Poverty and Dementia

The immense prevalence of undiagnosed cases is particularly detrimental, considering poverty may increase one’s risk of dementia. Poverty is linked with many risk factors for dementia — one of which is stressful experiences like financial insecurity and education difficulties. Incidence of dementia has also been linked to lower levels of education since early development of neural networks can help the brain combat damages to its pathology later in life. A study on the rural Chinese island of Kinmen, where the median level of education is one year, showed dementia rates rising as people turned 60. This trend is earlier than in developed nations, and implies that illiteracy and lack of education can bring on dementia sooner.

Looking Forward

It remains unclear whether there is a correlation or direct causation between education level and the likelihood of dementia later in life. But one thing, however, is clear — low education levels serve as a frequent marker for other socioeconomic issues that are more common in developing nations, such as poverty, malnutrition, and toxic environmental exposures. Furthermore, the most commonly recommended strategy for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s is maintaining overall health, which is more difficult in poorer countries due to malnutrition and unequal access to health care.

Moving forward, we must expand the support available to informal care systems, while ensuring healthcare providers receive dementia-specific training and health literacy. Women often the ones left to provide the majority of dementia care, but their efforts largely go ignored by their governments. Incentives, like universal social pensions, disability benefits and carer’s allowances, could support family and friends who house and care for people with dementia. Still, formal health systems too need to be bolstered to supplement and eventually substitute the role of informal carers. Policy-makers worldwide need to prioritize and anticipate the growing number of people with dementia as it remains the only leading cause of death still on the rise.

– Christine Mui
Photo: Flickr

Apps that aid in healthcare in developing countries It can sometimes be difficult for people in developing countries to access healthcare, specifically those living in poverty. In order to address this problem, healthcare apps are being used to provide greater access. Here are 10 healthcare aid apps that are impacting access in developing countries.

10 Apps That Aid Healthcare in Developing Countries

  1. Peek has its sights set on helping people with vision impairment issues and blindness, a problem exacerbated in developing countries by a lack of resources. Peek can identify people with vision problems. The app then works with healthcare providers to pinpoint an economically feasible way to supply the treatment they need, before allocating the appropriate resources. Currently, Peek is being used by the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is administering a population-based survey of blindness and visual impairments in Cambodia.
  2. SASAdoctor focuses on making healthcare consultations more accessible in Kenya. In the country, only 12% of people are insured. About 8 million are reliant on the National Hospital Insurance Fund, leaving 35 million Kenyans uninsured. Available to all Kenyans with an Android smartphone or tablet (65% of Kenyans have one), SASAdoctor decreases the cost of an in-person consultation for the uninsured and makes it free for those with insurance. Patients will have their medical history, list of medications and other such medical notes in their ‘file’ on the app, so that whoever tele-consults with them will have the information they need to create an informed medical opinion. SASAdoctor can decrease the cost of uninsured visits with a doctor to Kes 495 (the equivalent of $4.66) for a projected 80% of Kenyans who are predicted to have smartphones in the next few years.
  3. iWander allows people to keep track of Alzheimer’s patients. Set with tracking technology that can be discretely worn by the patient, it offers whoever uses the app several options on how to deal with situations involving the patient. Solutions can range from a group calling session to making an emergency medical call or summoning a caregiver. iWander gives families more control over the care of a loved one, which can have a positive impact in countries where healthcare may be less accessible. In the US, the average cost of care for a single person is $174,000 annually. About 7 out of 10 individuals with dementia remain at home to receive care, where 75% of the costs fall to the family to pay. In helping families be proactive instead of reactive to crises, iWander can help in cutting these costs, especially in poorer countries, where many families are struggling to keep up with the high costs of at-home care.
  4. Kenek O2 allows the user to monitor their oxygen and heart rate while they sleep. Kenek O2, built for the iPhone, also requires a pulse oximeter which connects to the phone and retrieves the data to be stored in the app. Together, the cost for these two items is around $100, compared to the price of a regular hospital oximeter and other similar products, which could easily cost more than $500. Having effectively been used in North America, South America, Asia and Africa, Kenek O2 is currently working on developing a special COVID-19 device to watch for early signs of hypoxia, or the deficiency of oxygen reaching tissues.
  5. First Derm is an app that requires a smartphone-connected device, called a dermatoscope. This allows detailed pictures to be taken of skin conditions and lesions to better allow for remote, teleconsultations. In places where doctors are few and far between, and public transport is less reliable, this can make getting a second medical opinion much easier. So far, First Derm has helped in more than 15,000 cases from Sweden, Chile, China, Australia and Ghana, ranging from ages of just 3 days old to 98 years. Of these cases, 70% could be treated without a doctor, most often by over-the-counter treatments available at local pharmacies.
  6. Ada takes user-input symptoms and provides appropriate measures to take as a result, like a personal health assistant. It’s intended to assist those who don’t have the means to seek an in-person consultation right away. The app has been released in several languages, which makes it more accessible. Currently, 10 million people around the world are using Ada for symptom evaluation.
  7. Babylon is intended to mitigate the obstacle of going to see a doctor in person by allowing users to input symptoms or solve common health problems via teleconsultation with a doctor. Babylon specializes in non-emergent medicine, allowing patients to skip a trip to the doctor’s office entirely if their condition allows it. This is beneficial in places where doctors are sparse, or the patient lacks the financial means or a method of transportation in getting to the hospital. Babylon caters to users across the U.S., U.K., Canada, Rwanda and several countries across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. The app aims to expand to more countries in the upcoming years.
  8. MobiSante, through its ultrasound device, allows versatility in diagnostic imaging by bringing the ultrasound to the patient. This allows quality, diagnostic imaging to be done outside the confines of a hospital or clinic. As a result, it provides more holistic and informed treatment where people may need it most but have previously struggled in accessing a healthcare center with the necessary technology. While having a computer at home with a desk is much less common in developing countries, the world’s increasing reliance on the internet is shifting the status of internet technology from a luxury to a basic necessity. This means that technology such as smartphones are becoming somewhat of a necessity in impoverished countries, making an app like MobiSante effective in using smartphones to make diagnostic imaging more accessible.
  9. Go.Data is a tool released by the WHO. It is specifically for collecting data during global health emergencies. During the Ebola outbreak in Africa, Go.Data was praised for tracing points of contact. The app also tracked infection trends and helped in arranging post-contact follow up.
  10. Mobile Midwife is a digital charting app that stores information in a cloud so that healthcare workers have access to all pertinent patient information. It works even in cases of power outages, or home births where internet connection may be less reliable. This app can help in areas where mother and infant mortality is higher, ensuring that healthcare providers can efficiently access patient information to ensure the best care. It can also cut the extra time it takes to find records that could otherwise make procedures more dangerous for both mother and child.

Bridging healthcare accessibility with smartphone apps isn’t a perfect solution, as it comes with accessibility issues of its own. However, these healthcare aid apps can help people without insurance, or who are physically unable to visit a physician, access health consultations. As a result, more people are provided access to healthcare, empowering a healthier (and more health-conscious) population.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in NorwayWhile many countries struggle to create and maintain an effective healthcare system, Norway has become a symbol of what a successful national healthcare system can look like. Norway is one of the kingdoms of the Scandinavian subregion of Europe. The country of 5.2 million people borders Sweden on the west and is east of the Shetland Islands. “Norwegian values are rooted in egalitarian ideals,” meaning that everyone should have equal opportunities. These principles are reflected in the country’s healthcare system.

Healthcare in Norway is designed for equal access, but it is by no means free. The country’s universal healthcare system is heavily subsidized by the government through taxation. Such high taxes have allowed Norway to run a broad welfare system that provides sickness coverage, unemployment coverage, social security and pension benefits that often allow even those who are low-income or impoverished to participate in healthcare. Here are eight facts about healthcare in Norway.

8 Facts About Healthcare in Norway

  1. All participants in the Norwegian healthcare system must cover all medical expenses up to 2040 krone (about $210) before they receive an exemption card. Then their treatment for the rest of the year is free.
  2. Norwegian spending on healthcare on a per head basis, which is currently at $6,187 per person, is the fourth highest in the world. The United States is highest at $10,600 per person.
  3. The Norwegian National Insurance Scheme is centrally controlled by the Norwegian Health Economics Administration (Helseøkonomiforvaltningen, HELFO); the administration of healthcare, however, is decentralized and handled by local municipal authorities. When Norwegians are traveling or living abroad, the country’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), a similar economic agreement to the European Union, and possession of the European Health Insurance Card allows them the same healthcare as the country they are staying in. After six months in Norway, documented immigrants can access healthcare. Visitors to Norway who are not members of the EEA are expected to pay in full.
  4. People can opt-out of the public system and choose private insurance instead. People will sometimes choose private insurance if they want to have certain procedures done quicker than the public system can handle. Nine percent of Norway’s population has private insurance at an average cost of 508 krone ($56) a month, and 91% of this insurance is covered by their jobs — making it relatively affordable.
  5. The Norwegian government has created a “Qualification Program” to deal with extended joblessness and poverty that might restrict affording healthcare. The program is designed to overcome social obstacles and a lack of skills through various activities. Participants usually find employment after four years.
  6. In Norway, life expectancy is 81 years old for men and 84 years old for women. This ranks the country 17th in the world. This longevity is attributed to a generally active lifestyle, a diet high in fish — specifically salmon —and a strong healthcare system.
  7. Although healthcare is robust in Norway, there are still areas of concern. Tobacco smoking has decreased, but there has been an increase in the use of a smokeless tobacco powder called snus, which is inhaled and can potentially increase the risk of oral cancers. In addition, childhood obesity is on the rise in Norway. Obesity among five to 19-year-olds has increased by more than 50% over the past decade.
  8. From 2013 to 2017, spending on pharmaceuticals increased by 40% in Norway, as national prescription drug use has increased. The Norwegian Health Economics Administration handles the reimbursement of the cost of pharmaceuticals. Distribution is highly regulated, as only community and hospital pharmacies can distribute medicine in the Norway health system.

Norway’s egalitarian and progressive ideals have helped make its healthcare system one of the best in the world. The country still faces challenges, including high rates of childhood obesity and cancer risk from smokeless tobacco. Norway is working to address these problems, for example by prohibiting the advertising of all tobacco products. The heavy taxation required for funding many public programs, including healthcare, often falls more heavily on those in lower-income brackets, but the government provides a thorough safety net to assist them. Norway has made great advances. The country remains a model of what a strong welfare state and an effectively run universal healthcare system can achieve.

Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in turkeyResting in the middle of three continents, not only is Turkey’s economy promising but so is their cultural impact. Turkey houses one of the largest refugee populations, with over 3.6 million registered Syrians amongst the 82 million Turkish citizens. With the country’s inconsistent conflict, the citizens require constant care due to the aftermaths of war, diseases and recently, coronavirus. Thus, healthcare in Turkey is at the forefront of global evaluation.

COVID-19

As of July 23rd, 2020, COVID-19 had infected more than 220,000 people in Turkey. The virus reached the peak of the first wave in April and has gradually sedated ever since with only one thousand cases nationally. Turkey restricted access across the borders and made it mandatory to wear masks in public. People above the age of 65 and below the age of 18 are required to follow a curfew under lockdown. The immediate action and the meticulous COVID-19 management by Turkey set a high example for the strength of a developing country.

Common Diseases

Apart from the coronavirus, Turkey sees many deaths from viral infections, circulatory system disorders, respiratory diseases and cancer. In 2016, non-communicable diseases caused 89% of deaths. Not only does the warm oceanic climate foster the spread of communicable diseases, but Turkey’s location between Africa, Asia, and Europe also promotes the spread of foreign diseases. Despite those factors, Turkey’s expansive healthcare system nurses their patients to their best ability.

Universal Healthcare System

The healthcare system in Turkey is not only affordable but of high quality. They are the regions leading provider for healthcare, providing citizens with the most care possible. While a heart bypass surgery would cost $129,750 in the United States, it only costs $12,000 in Turkey. Many infamous pharmaceutical companies and internationally-competitive medical facilities are all situated in Turkey. Turkish residents can receive free universal healthcare when registered with the social security system in contracted hospitals. Foreigners living in Turkey pay around $30 a month for unlimited healthcare.

Refugees and People in Poverty

Since the beginning of Syria’s refugee crisis, WHO has partnered with Turkey’s Ministry of Health to provide “culturally and linguistically sensitive” free healthcare. The WHO Refugee Health Program trained more than 2000 Syrian health workers in seven training facilities for the workers to be hired into 178 different hospitals. Syrian asylum seekers and refugees receive free healthcare to treat traumatized patients.

With Turkey’s 9.2% poverty rate, many cannot afford private health insurance or even pay their taxes. Turkey has created a system to include access to high-quality healthcare for all. In 2012, 98% of Turkish residents had access to healthcare because of The Health Transformation Program led by the government of Turkey and the World Bank.

The advancing system of Turkey aims for 100% access to quality healthcare. With an accepting atmosphere, people in poverty no longer have to worry about paying hospital bills or skipping doctor appointments. Healthcare fosters a system where everybody is strong and able-bodied to take on work. This creates an opportunity for people in poverty, refugees, and other vulnerable populations to rise above the poverty line.

Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

healthcare centers in MadagascarSince the coup in 2009, Madagascar’s newly elected government has been working with outside organizations, such as Project HOPE, to improve healthcare centers in Madagascar. In 2020, the country partnered with the Ministry of Public Health and the United Nations Population Fund to provide free transportation for pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare Centers in Madagascar

USAID reported that more than 60% of Madagascar’s population — 27.7 million people — lives more than five kilometers from a healthcare center. This distance takes about one hour to walk. According to the World Bank, the cost of treatment and transportation to healthcare centers can be a barrier for people in poverty to access healthcare. The World Bank reported that about 75% of Madagascar’s population lives below the international poverty line, on less than $1.90 per day. This directly impacts the ability of people to access and pay for treatment at healthcare centers. UN Women statistics show that 75.9% of employed women in Madagascar are below the international poverty line, compared to 73.7% of men.

Released in 2017, a Project HOPE study examined the effects of removing fees at health centers in Madagascar. According to the study, citizens located within five kilometers became more likely to seek treatment. They account for 15-35% of those who reported illness. Fee exemptions for certain medicines and treatments likewise increased the use of healthcare services for maternity consultations by 25%.

Impacts of Limited Transportation

In a report from June 2018, the World Bank wrote that many rural citizens of Madagascar are disconnected from main roads, which limits their access to healthcare centers. Madagascar has a low road density. This means the country’s complete network of roads is small compared to the country’s total land area. As a result, 25% of healthcare centers in Madagascar are located more than five kilometers from the road network.

According to the World Bank report, poor road conditions in rural areas also impact network connectivity. Transportation of medical supplies can be unreliable, specifically during rainy seasons, when roads can be flooded and hard to cross. This makes it difficult for health centers to consistently send supplies to those who cannot access the centers.

Lack of access to transportation can also contribute to keeping people in poverty. The World Bank and the Department for International Development wrote that isolation due to difficulty accessing roads and transportation can limit the ability of people in poverty to participate in local markets. This decreases their economic opportunity.

The Effects of COVID-19

With 908 confirmed cases and six total deaths from COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified Madagascar as warning level three for the pandemic. The country is in partial lockdown. On April 5, President Andry Nirina Rajoelina announced that only vehicles transporting goods were allowed to circulate in the three regions impacted by COVID-19 — Matsiatra, Ambonym Analamanga and Atsinanana. All other public transport was suspended. For some, without public transport, the nearest health center is two hours away.

Solutions

The United Nations Population Fund reported that 44% of women in Madagascar give birth with the help of healthcare professionals. Madagascar’s maternal death rate is 353 for every 100,000 births. According to UNFPA, this rate is high compared to the global average of 216 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births.

The Ministry of Public Health and the UN Population Fund partnered to help pregnant women access healthcare centers in Madagascar. These organizations are providing free, 24-hour transportation for women living in the cities of Antananarivo and Toamasina during COVID-19. By the end of Madagascar’s partial lockdown, this free transportation is projected to help around 5,000 pregnant women.

Poverty impacts peoples’ ability to access healthcare centers in Madagascar due to restricted transportation and high fees. Statistics show this lack of accessibility impacts women slightly more than men. With even fewer transportation options during COVID-19, free transportation for pregnant women is making a positive impact on healthcare accessibility.

Melody Kazel 
Photo: Flickr