Inflammation and stories on healthcare

Poverty in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has a fairly high poverty rate with more than 16% of the population living below the poverty line. Because of the many people reliant on agriculture for an income and inequality in wealth distribution, about 17.6 million Filipinos struggle to afford basic necessities. From 2015 to 2020, the rate of poverty declined from 21.6% to 16.6%. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte aims to reduce the rate of poverty to 14% by 2022. Through its strategy, AmBisyon 2040, the Philippine government plans to eradicate extreme poverty by 2040. Furthermore, the government has implemented various programs and reforms to reduce poverty by targeting education, healthcare and the overall economy. Here are five ways the program is combatting poverty in the Philippines.

Combatting Poverty in the Philippines

  1. Greater Access to Education: A factor of systemic poverty is a lack of access to education in impoverished areas. People gain basic skills and increased job opportunities through education, which can help to combat poverty in the Philippines. Therefore, the Philippines signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in 2017 to encourage more people to enroll in higher education and to address the issue of education inequality. The government subsidizes the cost of tuition for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) students as well as other expenses such as school supplies. Private institutions also have access to a tuition subsidy. The Act aims to decrease the number of dropouts in higher education and promote the idea that higher education is available to all.
  2. Greater Access to Healthcare: In an effort to improve the healthcare system, President Duterte signed the Universal Healthcare Act in February 2019. The UHC Act provides access to the full spectrum of healthcare by enrolling citizens in the National Insurance Program and granting health coverage to all. While healthcare is not completely free, those in poverty will have more access to health services. To ensure the effectiveness of healthcare, the Act will form the Health Technology and Assessment Council (HTAC). The Council will consist of health experts who will assess health developments, such as technology, vaccines and other advancements. Additionally, the Philippines will allocate more funds to PhilHealth, which will improve the quality of service and lower the cost of medicine.
  3. Family Aid: To further efforts to support citizens, the government implemented the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in 2007. The 4Ps is is a conditional cash transfer program for impoverished households. The program gives households grants so long as they meet certain requirements, including keeping the children in school, having regular health check-ups and having parents or guardians attend Family Development Sessions. The 4Ps program benefits about 20 million Filipinos, 9 million of whom are children. Therefore, the program reaches about 20% of the population with the goal of greater poverty reduction.
  4. Economic Improvement: With the goal of reducing poverty by strengthening economics, President Duterte signed the Rice Tariffication Law in February 2019, amending the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996. The Law places a 35% tariff on imported rice with the goal of prioritizing local rice production for the population by stabilizing the supply. The tariff also aims to benefit local farmers by creating a more efficient and competitive agricultural system.
  5. Build, Build, Build: Additionally, the Duterte administration created the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan in 2017. The initial goal of the program was to complete 75 projects, but Duterte revised the plan to instead target finishing 100 projects. Some projects include new public transportation and airport renovations. The government has put about 34% of the projects into action and is expecting to complete 56% by 2022. By 2019, the government had completed two of the initial 75 projects. With support from loans, the Philippines will rely on Build, Build, Build as a strategy to aid the country in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s hope is that combatting the effects of the pandemic by improving the country’s infrastructure will stimulate the economy and create more jobs. However, the program has received criticism due to its slow execution as a result of underspending.

Unfortunately, poverty is expected to increase in the Philippines because of the coronavirus crisis. This will lead to a decrease in consumption growth and further income losses. Therefore, greater efforts are necessary to combat poverty in the Philippines amid the pandemic, which has hit the impoverished the hardest.

Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in mauritaniaThe Islamic Republic of Mauritania is a vast desert country with a significant nomadic population. These facets of Mauritania’s geography present challenges for creating healthcare infrastructure. In particular, physical distance and large rural populations make distributing care a massive undertaking. Accordingly, there are only 0.19 practicing physicians per 1,000 people in Mauritania. Here are five facts about healthcare in Mauritania.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Mauritania

  1. A lack of proper infrastructure devastates public health in rural, vulnerable regions. Problems stemming from poor sanitation and a lack of clean water plague Mauritania. Many areas of Mauritania go completely without consistent water sources due to geographic barriers. Overall, the capital city of Nouakchott is the only region with adequate water supply and treatment. This lack of water leads to serious consequences for healthcare in Mauritania. According to the World Health Organization, 2,150 Mauritanians die from diarrheal disease per year. Ninety percent of these deaths are linked to a lack of sanitation and insufficient access to clean water. In addition, droughts and desertification are preventing rural populations from accessing water at all. This is yet another challenge to improving healthcare in Mauritania.
  2. Many political barriers inhibit attempts to improve healthcare in Mauritania. The country suffers from a shortage of doctors and treatment facilities in rural areas of the country. While there are potential avenues for funding expansion, the Mauritanian government tends to keep infrastructure projects centralized to the capital region. Although the capital is the largest city and presents the most promise for economic growth, this neglects rural citizens. For example, the national insurance program prioritizes a portion of the urban population, as it only covers government officials and those who are formally employed. Poverty-stricken people are further disadvantaged by the astronomical cost of healthcare without any insurance. Thankfully, groups like the Institute of Tropical Medicine are working to provide a concerted effort to expand healthcare in Mauritania.
  3. Mauritania struggles with reproductive and neonatal care. According to the World Bank, Mauritania has a birthrate of 4.62. Combined, the birthrate and lack of adequate neonatal care lead to high infant and maternal mortality. However, the International Development Association is dedicating $23 million to expanding the reach and quality of maternal, neonatal and reproductive healthcare in Mauritania. The initiative also aims to combat childhood malnutrition by investing in further healthcare and nutrition services for children. These efforts, part of the Mauritania Health System Support project, aspire to alleviate issues in healthcare beyond the capital city. This will provide much-needed relief to rural and refugee populations.
  4. International aid is going toward healthcare in Mauritania. The International Development Association of the World Bank is providing funds to help local governments build sanitation and water treatment infrastructure. These funds will address the gross centralization of public utilities and expand access to water and sanitation services into rural areas. With tools to manage public services provided through the Decentralization and Productive Intermediate Cities Support project, localities will have the means to create a substantive foundation for healthcare in Mauritania.
  5. The Institute of Tropical Medicine is also promoting healthcare in Mauritania. In her 2018 article for the Institute of Tropical Medicine, public health expert Kirsten Accoe details how the ITM intends to establish a local health system team in the country. This team would tackle healthcare on the district level in conjunction with centralized efforts to improve healthcare. The initiative aims to create sustained quality care by increasing the retention of healthcare workers in each district, which has previously been an issue due to lack of funding, equipment and trained personnel. ITM’s effort can therefore allow more to people get the relief they deserve.

Improving healthcare in Mauritania is certainly a complex task. But the government and aid organizations can come together to cultivate a coordinated effort to improve infrastructure, assist healthcare professionals at the district level and expand the reach of care. In doing so, they will begin to create an equitable healthcare system and provide all Mauritanians with the care they deserve.

Olivia Bielskis
Photo: Flickr

Disease Treatment in Bangladesh
The country of Bangladesh sits in the Northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent. Also, it is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. This high population of more than 166.2 million has been hard hit by disease. For example, the primary causes of death in Bangladesh include respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis. To combat the threat posed to its citizens, the government installed many hospitals and rural health centers to treat tuberculosis and other fatal yet common diseases. Moreover, cholera and malaria also fall into this category of fatal, common diseases plaguing Bangladesh. These centers came about to improve disease treatment in Bangladesh, especially in the more rural regions. Unfortunately, it is these rural regions where such services would normally be scarce.

Problems and Progress

The Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) and the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), located in Dhaka, have both worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This joint effort aims to conduct public health research. The organizations seek to gather more information to categorize and treat a multitude of diseases, such as encephalitis, rotavirus, polio, and viral hepatitis. The main hope of these programs is to learn more about the transmission of the pathogens in question and their ability to spread between hosts of different geographic areas.

Also, the CDC assists government staff on effective and efficient techniques to investigate the conditions and cases of a disease outbreak. Moreover, the CDC also provides guidance and instruction on how to respond to public health threats. Policymakers have referenced medical studies to help them make better-informed decisions about introducing vaccines and other interventions. All of this, to improve disease treatment in Bangladesh.

The Impact of COVID-19

Currently, it is these services that the nation looks toward in hopes of dealing with the ongoing, new coronavirus pandemic. The virus has had a dramatic, negative impact on Bangladesh on many fronts. There have been nearly 17,000 deaths within the past few months — with the first cases being detected in early March 2020. The nation’s economy has also taken a massive hit. The annual economic growth had remained steady at around 7% for the past decade. However, now it suddenly dropped to an estimated 2%. This could potentially prove problematic for plans to increase domestic aid. Less trade and resources mean that loans would have to be taken out, to support citizens. This, alongside the projected $250 million required for clinical testing and equipment.

Vulnerable, Rural Populations: A Potential Solution

Bangladesh is working with other research centers to push for potential treatments and research on the virus. Since more than 63% of the population lives in rural areas, the situation is complex. For example, typical prevention methods in place, world-wide, such as lockdowns and social distancing will not be viable in the long-term. Many citizens are poor farmers and will be unable to provide for themselves and their families if quarantining persists for months at a time. However, a potential solution is on the horizon. With the help of the armed forces, it may be possible to install a system of clean and non-contact rationing, to provide people with the supplies and food they need. In theory, such as service could also provide medical supplies to hospitals, volunteer groups and other medical centers working on disease treatment in Bangladesh.

The economic situation of Bangladesh makes plans for dealing with the coronavirus tenuous at best. However, through their strong connections to research institutions and global organizations dedicated to providing support for these scenarios, disease treatment in Bangladesh can still be managed. Regardless of the large scale of diseases and pandemics.

Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Lebanon
On the evening of August 4, 2020, a column of smoke loomed menacingly over Beirut’s vast horizon, foreshadowing tragedy in shades of gray and black. Flashes of white and glimpses of smoldering orange interrupted the inky cloud as it climbed to ever-greater heights. With a deafening blast, a massive shock wave consumed the city in the smoke and terror of 3,000 metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate. In a matter of seconds, the detonation inflicted an estimated $15 billion in property damage. Far more priceless, the human toll of the explosion stands at least 200, with thousands more wounded. In the tearful wake of the blast, the Lebanese people are hemorrhaging hope. Yet the horrific explosion is not merely a chance disaster: it is a symptom of the corruption in Lebanon that is eating the country from the inside out.

History of Corruption in Lebanon

Lebanon has long endured institutionalized corruption. Its current government system formed after the previous regime’s ineptitude eroded national security to the point of civil war. The war lasted from 1975-1990. The conflict occurred between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Christian groups backed by Israel and Syria, with both seeking political control over Lebanon. After 25 years of fighting, over 100,000 killed and thousands more uprooted, the conflict finally ended with the signing of the Taif Accord. This accord shaped the constitution into a document conducive to graft.

A government system that allotted public offices to major religious groups supplanted years of instability. This new framework nurtured the sectarianism that still dominates Lebanon’s politics today. Additionally, the presence of extreme polarization favors patronage over democracy. The champions of the civil war quickly grabbed power of the nascent government, bringing with them their blatant, unchecked corruption.

How Corruption in Lebanon Exacerbates Poverty

For years, Lebanon’s political leaders have enjoyed glittering affluence despite the country’s abysmal underdevelopment. Widespread embezzlement and underfunding of vital public services have gravely fractured Lebanon’s rickety foundation. In particular, a series of recent catastrophes have drawn international attention to the injustices long borne by the Lebanese people:

  1. Economic Crisis: A dire economic crisis has been ravaging the country for months. With a debt-to-GDP ratio of 170%, Lebanon is the world’s third most indebted nation. Even prior to COVID-19, one-quarter of the population was unemployed, and hyperinflation was driving prices to astronomic levels, dragging more and more citizens into poverty.
  2. Lack of Basic Services: Lebanon’s politicians have chosen personal enrichment over public welfare, leading to dismal internet connectivity, insufficient health care, contaminated water and unreliable power sources. Moreover, in the absence of infrastructure, sanitation deficiencies recently culminated in a massive accumulation of waste that attracted global coverage.
  3. Natural Disaster: A series of fierce wildfires in October 2019 sparked public outrage when fire departments proved ineffective in extinguishing the blaze. The destructive calamity called attention to the severe underfunding of Lebanon’s crisis response teams.
  4. COVID-19: The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has heightened unemployment, inflation and poverty. Consequently, the country experienced increased food insecurity and risk of famine, with the three-quarters of the population on track to require food handouts by the end of 2020. The pandemic has strained limited health care institutions, depriving thousands of vital treatment and underscoring the government’s neglect of public services. Overall, COVID-19 has delivered incredible hardship to a country already saturated with adversity. The blame for Lebanon’s innumerable development problems falls upon its leaders’ ineffectual leadership. Their failure or refusal to address long-standing infrastructural shortcomings in favor of self-indulgence has put the country on the brink of collapse.

Forces for Change

Despite the widespread corruption in Lebanon, downtrodden citizens and empathetic foreigners are striving to implement much-needed reforms.

Public outcry has led to numerous recent power shifts. In October 2019, massive demonstrations, set off by a proposed tax increase, united Lebanon’s diverse political sects against government abuses. This monumental display of solidarity ultimately ousted then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his administration and led to the induction of Hassan Diab.

The international community has joined this fight against corruption in Lebanon. On August 9, 2020, a global summit of donors authorized $298 million to directly help the Lebanese population. This relief package suggests a departure from previous payments of aid to the government. This practice fostered embezzlement by leaders and eroded the regime’s accountability to the public. Fortifying their stance against corruption, the forum also announced that Lebanon must enact long-overdue reforms to qualify for further funding.

Demanding Change

As the world demands change for Lebanon, recent headlines have chronicled the country’s myriad crises. The blast in Beirut is no different than these struggles: it is a product of the political abuse that has crippled Lebanon for years. The port authority seized the ammonium nitrate that exploded in 2013 and left it “awaiting auction” or a spark to ignite it, whichever came first. Early investigations have revealed the government’s full awareness of the compound’s improper storage: it just did not do anything about it. Instead, the government ignored repeated warnings from experts and postponed handling the issue to a later date. Tragically, chemistry beat them to it.

Once again reminded of the lethal consequences of inaction, protests previously hampered by COVID-19 have revived. These impassioned riots led to the resignation of Diab’s government on August 10, 2020. This event threatens to magnify the country’s instability. Despite widespread anxieties, however, Diab articulated his intention to “stand with the people,” a move that, if adopted the world over, may finally heal Lebanon’s long-borne suffering.

Rosalind Coats
Photo: Wikimedia

Facts About Healthcare in TaiwanUniversal healthcare in Taiwan provides health services indiscriminately to the country’s constituents. Healthcare itself is highly regarded as important for nations looking to care for impoverished citizens. Taiwan, an island country in East Asia, provides universal healthcare to its population of more than 23 million. Here are 6 facts about healthcare in Taiwan under the National Health Insurance (NHI) program.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Taiwan

  1. Taiwan is under a single-payer healthcare system. Under a single-payer model, one public agency controls healthcare for everyone. Taiwan implemented this system of universal healthcare in 1995 as recommended by then-advisor Uwe Reinhardt. Reinhardt pushed for an equitable healthcare program that would cover all citizens effectively without bias. Before the implementation of the program, private insurance companies provided coverage for around 57% of the country’s citizens; universal healthcare provides for 100%.
  2. Enrollment in national healthcare is mandatory. All Taiwanese citizens must be enrolled in the NHI program, as well as travelers staying in Taiwan for more than six months. The National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) covers everyone in Taiwan. Citizens have NHI IC cards that contain their medical records.
  3. Taiwanese citizens still have autonomy within the system. While the healthcare system is national, doctors and hospitals still operate privately. Residents of Taiwan may choose which establishments they visit, but they must present their NHI IC cards when they receive treatment. After treating patients, hospitals and doctors claim payment from the NHIA. Patients may be charged a small copayment depending on their income.
  4. NHI covers virtually everything. NHI guarantees free coverage for preventive care such as child care and cancer screenings. It provides care for mental health as well as general primary care. Citizens under NHI are also given access to the basics, such as medicine (modern and traditional) and checkups. Some private insurance companies also exist, which citizens may choose to patronize based on needs that don’t exist within the NHI system, such as very specific types of medicine or treatment.
  5. Costs are low for everyone. The NHIA stratifies patients based on their income and financial need, which means that low-income workers have their healthcare completely subsidized. The NHI, however, has capped copayment amounts that benefit even high-income patients. The system caps prescription drug copayments at $6.64 and specialized physician visits at about $14. Approval ratings for the national healthcare system are higher than ever with more than 80% of Taiwanese citizens expressing their approval.
  6. The healthcare system is incredibly efficient. Because of the nationalized system, healthcare administration costs are low in Taiwan. As a result, the country only spends about 6% of its GDP on the healthcare system every year. In comparison, the U.S. spent almost 18% of its GDP on healthcare in 2018. This is one of the lowest rates for a country with healthcare as developed as Taiwan.

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance system is an example of universal healthcare that benefits all. Healthcare is consistently an important factor in poverty alleviation because basic medical treatment can stretch lifespans and save lives. Giving the impoverished access to healthcare is an important step in fighting poverty. While Taiwan may have an efficient and beneficial system, many people globally remain in need of healthcare services.

Maggie Sun
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in New Zealand
New Zealand is a small island country situated just southeast of Australia. Its healthcare system is known as one of the best in the world. While there are still improvements to be made, the government of New Zealand has worked to make healthcare affordable and accessible. Here are ten facts about healthcare in New Zealand.

10 Facts About Healthcare in New Zealand

  1. The national government runs New Zealand’s universal healthcare system. This means the government handles the public healthcare system from its budget to the agency that oversees it. This allows healthcare to be free to access, as it is funded publicly through taxes and by the national government. However, the government does not handle the responsibilities for providing health services, leaving this up to regional and private healthcare centers in the system.
  2. New Zealand’s average life expectancy is about 82 years. The nation ranks 15th in the world for highest life expectancy rates. New Zealand’s healthcare system has contributed to the high life expectancy and the country is striving to increase life expectancy even further.
  3. Healthcare in New Zealand is not completely centralized. Instead, it is a mixture of both public and private. However, universal healthcare still exists in the form of public funding. The government provides a universal healthcare package for all residents. If a New Zealander wishes for more benefits or wishes to have non-essential services such as cosmetic surgery, then they must pay for these services themselves.
  4. Compared to most developed countries, healthcare in New Zealand receives more government funding than private funding. Most of the funding comes from taxation. This ensures that the taxes New Zealanders pay is put towards their healthcare services.
  5. The government also provides financial compensation for injuries. The Accidental Compensation Corporation (ACC) is a government agency that works with the national government to provide financial compensation for injuries during work and other events. Because of this, health services for injuries are often free of cost.
  6. Drugs and medicine are not provided by the state under the healthcare system. Instead, private pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies provide medicine to individuals via prescription or over the counter.
  7. Private health insurance is still available in New Zealand. However it only compensates for 5% of health insurance. Nonprofit and for profit non-government organizations offer private health insurance, which is mainly used for elective surgery or to cover cost sharing requirements.
  8. Mental health, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are the main health concerns in New Zealand. However, the number of physicians, nurses, specialists and dentists are steadily increasing in the country. Moving forward, this could help the nation more effectively tackle these persistent health concerns.
  9. One problem New Zealand faces is a decrease in hospital bed availability. Although New Zealand’s healthcare system is seen as very effective, there are some problems. One of these is the decreasing number of available hospital beds in the country. Although the reason for this is that many elderly patients are shifting to nursing homes and senior centers, this could be a problem in the future especially if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a significant concern.
  10. Inequality is also an issue in New Zealand’s healthcare system. Although the healthcare system is effective overall, the indigenous Maori do not have the same access to healthcare as the other residents of New Zealand. This inequality often prevents the Maori from receiving the same care and treatment.

New Zealand has a very effective healthcare system that is able to treat many diseases. However healthcare in New Zealand can still be improved, the most pressing issue to address being inequality. Moving forward, it is imperative that the government of New Zealand continue to support universal healthcare and expand its availability to everyone living in the country.

– Sadat Tashin
Photo: Flickr

chlorhexidine reduces neonatal mortality
Although the neonatal mortality rate across the globe has been consistently decreasing, neonatal death is still common in many regions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), annual infant deaths were at an all-time low of 4.1 million deaths in 2017, decreasing from 8.8 million in 1990. However, the death rate in Africa is over six times higher than it is in Europe, illustrating a severe disparity. As such, there is still much more that people can do to lower neonatal mortality rates. One potential solution is chlorhexidine, which reduces neonatal mortality.

How Chlorhexidine Reduces Neonatal Mortality

To combat mortality rates, Save the Children and governments in Nepal and Nigeria have implemented chlorhexidine, an antiseptic found in mouthwash. When used to clean the umbilical cord as soon as possible after birth, chlorhexidine reduces neonatal mortality by preventing infection in newborns, which is among the top drivers of neonatal deaths across the globe. Save the Children and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) partnered to create a chlorhexidine gel to distribute in wrapped pouches. Save the Children noted that this gel “was developed to be suitable for use in high temperatures, useful in sub-Saharan Africa and [South] Asia where the risk of newborn infections is high and temperatures are hot.”

Chlorhexidine gel has become wildly popular in Nepal, where USAID created the Chlorhexidine “Navi” Care Program to distribute chlorhexidine gel. In Nepal, around half of deliveries happen at home, making newborns even more exposed to infection if they are not delivered in a clean environment. In fact, a large majority of deaths in Nepal occur within the first month of life. Moreover, infections cause half of those deaths. In Nepal, chlorhexidine has reduced neonatal mortality by 24% and decreased the rate of infections in newborns by 68%. The Chlorhexidine “Navi” Care program’s objective aims to distribute chlorhexidine gel to all 75 districts of Nepal.

The Lifesaving Effects of Chlorhexidine

Nepal is not the only country to see chlorhexidine reduce neonatal mortality rates. Nigeria, one of the most populous countries in Africa, has also seen success. Its neonatal mortality rate has dropped from 48 deaths per 1,000 births in 2003 to 37 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013. According to many estimates, infections cause at least one-third of newborn mortalities in Nigeria. In March 2016, Nigeria created a plan to scale-up the use of chlorhexidine to lower neonatal mortality rates. If this program succeeds, it will save 55,000 infants. Although this scaling up program started slowly, the Nigerian government has committed to continuing the use of chlorhexidine to prevent infection and fatalities. To do so, it has a plan in place to help local governments achieve their goals.

Across the globe, there are large imbalances in neonatal mortality rates. Countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia have a much higher neonatal death rate than countries such as Australia, Canada or China. In developing countries where poverty rates are higher, neonatal death skyrockets due to a lack of resources. This simple, cheap and over-the-counter chlorhexidine gel is saving lives across the globe. As chlorhexidine becomes even more accessible to every community, it is hopeful that neonatal deaths will continue to decrease.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: Flickr

Six Facts about Healthcare in Tunisia
Tunisia, situated in the North-central region of Africa, borders two relatively unstable nations, Algeria and Libya. However, Tunisia has had consistent development in human wellbeing for the past couple of decades, ranking among the highest in the African continent. In part, this status can be attributed to the relatively strong healthcare system in place. According to a World Health Organization report, Tunisia possesses a national health strategic plan as well as a relatively high life expectancy at 75 years. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tunisia. 

6 Facts About Healthcare in Tunisia

  1. Health Insurance: More than 90% of the population has some form of health insurance. Private insurance systems cover many Tunisians, while others rely on programs for vulnerable demographics. One persistent concern is the gaps in payment for medical procedures, which can create a financial burden for families. 
  2. Universal Healthcare: Though the new constitution in 2014 labeled healthcare a “human right,” much work still remains to be done in order to make healthcare in Tunisia universally accepted and effective. Specifically, the government is working to improve healthcare infrastructure in southern Tunisia. In 2016, it increased the healthcare budget by 9% to help accomplish this goal. 
  3. Private Sector: The private healthcare sector in Tunisia is booming. In recent years, the number of new private clinics built in the country has surged. By 2025, 75 new facilities are expected to be completed, an increase which would double the capacity of hospital beds in the country. These improvements should help make access to quality healthcare more readily accessible to the general population. 
  4. Deadly Diseases: Tunisia has been able to eradicate and control many deadly diseases that put a strain on the healthcare system. Malaria, polio, schistosomiasis are well under control. The country has also addressed and effectively managed HIV/AIDS. 
  5. COVID-19 Pandemic: Thus far, Tunisia has managed COVID-19 relatively well. Sitting at 1,780 confirmed cases and 52 deaths (as of August 12), the country is well-positioned to recover economically from the virus. Though it is still early, it appears that the healthcare system in Tunisia was able to absorb the influx of cases in order to slow the death rate.
  6. Preventative Measures: Tunisia’s success in battling COVID-19 is largely due to preventative measures taken by the government and healthcare sector. Seeing the potential for a rise in cases, the nation shut down swiftly. Tunisia went into a rigorous lockdown that lasted for months. This was an especially difficult decision, considering that tourism accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP. In spite of this, however, the World Health Organization cited a strong sense of community and respect for the lockdown measures across the nation.

These six facts about healthcare in Tunisia highlight some of the country’s most significant successes. The nation’s strong healthcare system has led to the control of many deadly diseases. Moving forward, it is essential that the Tunisian government continues to prioritize improving and expanding its healthcare infrastructure.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is a small nation in Western Europe, between Switzerland and Austria. The country has a universal healthcare system that covers not only citizens but everyone residing within its borders. Moreover, the healthcare standard is high, well-developed and the citizens suffer from few communicable diseases. Here are six facts about healthcare in Liechtenstein.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Liechtenstein

  1. Liechtenstein is not a member of the World Health Organization. This is because membership in the WHO is expensive and with such a small amount of citizens and land — the country cannot afford to be a member. However, the country is a member of the United Nations and is committed to improving healthcare around the world. They have signatory and ratification status to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and have submitted Confidence Building Measures for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
  2. There is only one hospital in Liechtenstein. Known as the National Hospital, it is located in the capital of Vaduz. The hospital provides basic services to the country’s citizens. However, for more advanced care, citizens must travel to nearby hospitals in Switzerland or Austria, which notably have agreements with the Liechtenstein government. Additionally, the country’s Federal Office of Public Health is responsible for monitoring the Liechtenstein healthcare system and communicating important information to the public.
  3. Although Liechtenstein has a well-developed healthcare system, it ranks average among other nations. According to the Global Health Security Index, the country is 60th in immunization, 161st in laboratory systems and 76th in risk communication. However, it is strong in other areas, as it ranks 36th in its epidemiology workforce, 6th in infection control practices and availability of equipment and 14th in capacity to test and approve new medical countermeasures.
  4. Everyone older than the age of 16 must have health insurance in Liechtenstein. The constitution guarantees a state-run, healthcare system. As a result, either private insurance, employers or the government provides health insurance.
  5. Liechtenstein has a strong history of establishing a state-run, healthcare system in the country. Starting in 1874, the country’s first healthcare law set out the duties of the national doctor and the national veterinarian. Additionally, the country’s constitution specifically enumerates fighting alcoholism and caring for the sick as significant responsibilities. Furthermore, multiple laws necessitate providing healthcare in schools.
  6. Currently, the top and most common health concerns in the country are complications from air pollution, COVID-19 and STDs. A less common health concern, though still important, is tick-borne encephalitis, which is prevalent in the area of Vaduz.

A Semi-Outsourced System

As a whole, Liechtenstein has a sufficient healthcare system and resources to care for its citizens. However, because the country is so small and its reach is limited by the number of healthcare professionals in the country — Liechtenstein will continue to struggle to reach the success of other developed countries. Currently, the country has been successful in containing the new coronavirus with such a small population. Yet, for finding success in other medical areas, Liechtenstein has resorted to engaging with other governments like Switzerland and Austria through contracts to meet the needs of its citizens.

Julia Canzano
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

healthcare in cyprusIn the small Mediterranean country of Cyprus, healthcare systems function quite well. Though the World Health Organization recognizes it as being at the same level as that of other developed countries — the Cypriot Ministry of Health has decided to reform it. Here are four things to know about healthcare in Cyprus.

Important Points About Healthcare in Cyprus

Cyprus does not have universal healthcare. Instead, it is a system that is split between a private and a public sector. This, in turn, causes an imbalance. In the public system, “Entitlement to receive free health services is based on residency and income level.” Patients must endure long waiting lists for several services — a problem that has only worsened, recently. According to Cypriot Minister of Health Dr. Androulla Agrotou, “the majority of the population has the right to a free of charge access to public health services while the remaining population must pay per fee schedules set by the Ministry of Health.”

The private system is largely unregulated and financed out-of-pocket by entrepreneurs and voluntary health insurance providers. Moreover, the private system has a surplus of expensive medical technology that often goes underutilized. It also experiences staffing issues, problems with the quality of services and developing health facilities. According to Dr. Agrotou, the lack of a unifying base between the private and the public sector causes “a significant disequilibrium.”

Recent reforms

Despite the aforementioned flaws, the Cypriote Ministry of Health has recently unveiled a new, more comprehensive healthcare system in 2015. The title of the new system is — the General Health Insurance System (GHIS). It aims to provide universal coverage within many areas of the health system. In this same vein, the new healthcare system plans to provide more autonomy to and better management of public hospitals. To do this, GHIS will merge public and private health resources to introduce “information technology systems” and involve patients and the public “in developing and designing services.” In early 2019, the process of giving public hospitals more autonomy began and it aims to finish implementing the reforms in June 2020.

Where Healthcare in Cyprus Currently Stands

Healthcare in Cyprus is considered comparable to that of the U.K. or the U.S. It has made significant progress in disease prevention, as well as surveillance and control mechanisms. Notably, the indicators for life expectancy at birth are at about 75 and 80 years — for men and women, respectively. Other indicators, such as infant mortality and incidence of communicable diseases are also quite low, and “rank Cyprus in high positions in E.U.-wide and international comparisons” says Dr. Agrotou.

Future Outlook

In conclusion, though Cyprus lacks a universal healthcare plan, it is in the process of reforming its system to provide universal coverage to its citizens. Despite the split between the private and public systems, the current system is good enough as some considered it to be a high-quality service provider. However, despite this promising status, the Cypriot government is not settling for “good enough;” and valiant efforts to further improve healthcare in Cyprus are now underway.

Mathilde Venet
Photo: Flickr