Inflammation and stories on healthcare

Telehealth in IndiaIn 2017, around 60% of the population in India faced poverty, with around 1.3 million people living on less than $3.10 a day. India is one of the most populous countries, right behind China. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation, India was hard hit by the pandemic. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that with the economic halt in India, around 400 million people are at risk of falling into poverty. As people struggle with access to food and healthcare services, digital and technological resources are being  implemented to reach those most at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the use of telehealth in India.

Telehealth in India

Telehealth in India has had a substantial impact on communities. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the Indian government initiated telemedicine to help healthcare professionals reach everyone in need, even those living along the lines of poverty and those in rural locations. Telehealth in India gives the poor a chance to receive adequate healthcare without an in-person visit, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. India has made great strides in improving technological resources in the country. With these resources being improved, telemedicine can bring specialized care to even the most remote places in India.

There have been recent technological advances within India, such as the proliferation of fiber optic cables and the licensing of private internet service providers. These new technological advances have encouraged the Indian Space Research Organization to set up an exclusive satellite called HealthSAT that can bring telemedicine to the poor on a larger scale.

Telemedicine Systems

A telemedicine system in a small health center consists of a computer with custom medical software connected to essential medical diagnostic tools. Through the computer, digitized versions of patients’ medical images and diagnostic details are dispatched to specialist doctors through the satellite-based communication link. The information is received and examined to diagnose and suggest appropriate treatment through video-conferencing. With all of these services being offered, reaching the poor in the most remote places has become more of a possibility.

The Impact of Telehealth

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about negative effects for India, it has also compelled India to utilize more digital and technological resources to expand its reach. Telehealth in India has brought some relief to overburdened healthcare systems, relieving the pressures of increased caseloads due to the pandemic. Medical centers now have the ability and capacity to reach long-distance patients. The Indian government issued the Telemedicine Practice Guidelines in March 2020, allowing for registered medical practitioners to provide healthcare services using telecommunication and digital technologies.

The Future of Telehealth in India

Telehealth in India is bringing about new growth within the medical arena. The prolonged pandemic and the absence of a vaccine means telemedicine and telehealth services are integral and will be useful for the foreseeable future. Not only will the middle-class and the wealthy have access to healthcare but healthcare services will also be able to reach the poor in the most remote places.

– Kendra Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Deworming PillsThis July, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published data from a longitudinal research study that looked at how deworming Kenyan children affected their economic outcomes. Youths took deworming medication under professional supervision and were revisited 20 years later by researchers. Economists used these findings to estimate the impact of deworming pills. They find an enormous effect: taking deworming pills during childhood boosts household income by as much as 13% in adulthood.

NBER Research

Deworming has a positive effect on children’s education; reducing absenteeism and dropping out of school. However, this study finds that in addition to, and perhaps as a result of improved education, deworming increases the likelihood of working in nonagricultural jobs with higher incomes. If students are healthier from a younger age and succeed in school, they have a higher chance of bettering their futures. However, it must be noted that the study only found this future income boost applied to men, suggesting that although deworming medicine increases better education, it does not improve economic mobility for women. Further research is necessary to study this gender gap and its causes.

Further Research

The World Health Organization (WHO) and The World Bank have been funding the distribution of deworming pills in Africa for many years now. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are high infection rates of intestinal worms, especially among school-age children. Worms stunt children’s development and affect their ability to function. Deworming kids is inexpensive, and it results in healthier individuals and communities. Additionally, when previous generations are treated, the current generations are shown to reap the benefits. With deworming programs having such clear positive results, many organizations such as the WHO support and supply school-based deworming in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as other developing countries.

Deworming pills cost less than a dollar per child treated, so the return on deworming programs is enormous. For instance, the NBER study predicts a 37% return on deworming investments. However, these researchers acknowledge that there is a low chance this effect is statistically significant. In other words, they may have vastly overstated the effect of deworming pills on future outcomes.

Deworm the World

Hassenfeld is the co-founder of GiveWell, a nonprofit dedicated to finding and rating giving opportunities for donors. GiveWell backs an initiative called “Deworm the World,” which they consider a “priority program” because of how cheap deworming is and how beneficial the outcome may be. GiveWell also hires and trains monitors to attend schools, conduct training sessions, and implement distributions of deworming pills to students to ensure program efficiency.

Deworm the World spent $2.2 million more dollars in 2018 on deworming than in 2017. However, the company is continually seeking funding because they hope to expand its programs in Kenya, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Concluding Thoughts

This study suggests that deworming may strengthen entire communities over time, raising people out of poverty and improving their countries’ GDP. One study cannot completely explain the financial impact of deworming; however, it is clear that further research is needed and that children’s lives are being changed for the better. Previous research has shown that supporting healthcare systems and eradicating illnesses in developing countries leads to their growth and success. Similarly, deworming programs may play a big role in alleviating poverty in countries affected by intestinal worms.

– Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr


Agribusinesses in Trifinio, Guatemala renovated cattle and pasture lands into crops for exports which dramatically changed the area. The transformation drove approximately 25,000 people into this remote area in the southwest rural region of Guatemala and employed thousands of people who sought an opportunity in this growing business. The University of Colorado created a healthcare alliance to provide quality medical treatments in the now booming community.

Trifinio, Guatemala

Few people know about Trifinio, Guatemala even though it is a major producer for AgroAmerica’s Chiquita bananas. The town is made up of small concrete houses and only a few paved roads. Most homes are single-room units. When it comes to cultural development, the town’s only form of entertainment is a local bar.

This small and highly impoverished community suffers from the reality of poor health care access. With its nearest hospital one hour away in the town of Coatepeque Guatemala, the residents of this area face the challenges of malnutrition, high infant mortality rates, and a range of infectious diseases. More than 46% of children have intestinal parasites, 38.7% of children have anemia and one-third of women are affected by pregnancy complications. The numbers could not say it clearly enough; this community needed help. Fortunately, AgroAmerica teamed up with the University of Colorado to find a solution.

University of Colorado partners with AgroAmerica

In 2011 Fernando and Gustavo Bolaños, brothers and CEOs and COOs of AgroAmerica, became frustrated by the lack of health care access in their community. With Guatemala’s history of little investment in healthcare, they found themselves unable to ask the public sector for help. Gustavo Bolaños himself addressed this issue in an interview where he claimed, “In Guatemala, we have a lot of inequality and poverty, the government hasn’t been able to really cover the basic needs of the population. We as a private company, see all the needs of our people, and the biggest problem we are facing is education and health”. Therefore, rather than going to the government, they turned to the University of Colorado’s Global Health Center.

With an investment of 1 million U.S. dollars, the Bolaños made a healthcare alliance with the Colorado School of Public Health. Their goal was to build a medical center on their banana plantation. Three years later, the Bolaños proudly stood before the new medical facility. It houses a clinic, laboratory and conference space. The Trifinio Center for Human Development serves around 4,500 plantation workers, along with the 24,000 residents of the neighboring villages, and is “staffed by CU doctors, nurses, midwives, students and other health professionals rotating through Guatemala”.

The Last Six Years

Before Trifinio’s Center for Human Development (CHD) a visit to a health professional cost people in this community at least $25 USD. This did not include transportation fees and the loss of a day’s wages. With the medical facility, that cost has dropped to less than $5 USD. Families now have access to health resources without a geographical and economic barrier. The clinic is committed to decreasing neonatal morbidity, childhood mortality and increasing safe delivery practices and childhood growth and development. Along with these medical goals, the center hopes to impact the health education and social realities of its community.

In 2017, the CHD began a youth leadership program run by participating high-school students from the area. This initiative provided an opportunity for future leaders to learn about community organizing and advocacy that could improve human development. The program not just helps the community, but “students selected for this program receive a scholarship to cover their school fees,” promoting access for educational attainment.

Along with the youth program, the center provides sexual health education to neighboring schools in the area. For mothers, it has a maternal and child health program. This provides quality prenatal care and gives families a direct line for medical professionals to track both the mother’s and child’s health.

The center also conducts research to serve the needs of the community and bring new knowledge to the rest of the world. Their Student Health Survey, taken in late June and early July of 2019 “enrolled 1,414 participants from 15 Trifinio middle and high schools” to better understand the health and social realities of these children, and hopefully address the needs that are found.

The Future

In 2013 Stephen Berman, the director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Colorado said, “The solutions we develop through this program may someday be replicated in communities all over the world”. The program has had measurable benefits for its community, which is a good reason for its replication in other regions. Health care accessibility is not an easy system. But we saw major success through the healthcare alliance of a privately run company and a public institution. There are possibilities for new solutions to address the needs of those most vulnerable.

Ana Paola Asturias
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in the Virgin IslandsThe COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected healthcare in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) but risks to public safety in the territory go beyond that. Since the beginning of 2020, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has implemented mass healthcare reforms to help many people of the territory in several areas. Specifically, Governor Bryan and the government addressed long-term problems with healthcare for the region’s people such as emergency medical service regulations, access to healthcare for people of any race or income level, aiding individuals with disabilities and hospital facilities.

Previous Healthcare issues

Prior to the  COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many other things pointing towards issues with access to healthcare in the USVI. Three elements can describe issues the territory has had in providing good healthcare plans to its people: quality, cost and accessibility. Environmental concerns, such as lack of clean water, mismanagement of waste and overfishing, have also impacted peoples’ health negatively. Additionally, homicides have been a big issue as well.

Since March 2020, USVI has had three times as many deaths due to gun violence compared to deaths due to COVID-19. All these factors have put pressure on medical facilities and the resources to help those in need. The government has not always been a great help in funding its hospitals and health insurance has not been cost-friendly to individuals of the territory.

Hurricane and COVID-19 damages

Adding to the previous risk factors towards healthcare in the Virgin Islands, the recent hurricanes and the COVID-19 aftermath have made things much tougher. In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria cratered improvements in funding towards healthcare plans the territory put in place. Many nurses had to leave for work after heavily hit hospitals such as St. Thomas and the Schneider Regional Medical Center experienced damage. Many patients who were already recovering from their own illnesses or injuries had to be transferred or died as a result of these natural disasters. The most recent and well-known risk factor to public health and safety of the territory is COVID-19. As of September 1, 2020, there have been 1143 positive cases and 15 reported deaths.

Healthier Horizons

As the territory moves to address problems with healthcare in the Virgin Islands, positive plans have been put in place that will improve healthcare in the region. Governor Bryan and the USVI government have called the healthcare plan “Healthier Horizons.” This plan will directly focus on 11 parts of a good healthcare system:

  • Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities
  • Health Information Exchange
  • Telehealth
  • Medical Compacts
  • Virgin Islands Fire Service and Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
  • EMS regulation
  • Healthy Housing Initiative
  • Associated Health Plans
  • Improved Hospital Facilities
  • Health Plan of the Territory
  • Medical Cannabis

All of these parts of the territories’ action plan for providing more efficient, immediate and affordable health insurance to the citizens of the USVI will cover many issues. This reform is not only based on the foundation of previous problems of healthcare in the Virgin Islands but also stems from the desire to allow any individual, no matter their race or income, to get the medical help they need. This also includes updating medicines and health resources as well as having stronger funded hospitals and facilities across the islands.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Dominica, a small country in the Caribbean, has a population of about 72,000. Currently, general taxes are what finance healthcare services in Dominica. There are seven healthcare centers and 44 clinics around the country that provide primary healthcare at no cost.

 9 Facts About Healthcare in Dominica

  1. Dominica spends equivalent to $418 per capita on healthcare. As of 2011, healthcare costs were 4.2% of the GDP. Those healthcare services are provided by the Ministry of Health. Also, as of 2017, there were 1.1 doctors per 1000 people in Dominica.
  2. There are five hospitals in Dominica. Four of these hospitals are government-owned, while the other one is privately owned. The Princess Margaret Hospital has one small intensive care unit, meaning it is most equipped to deal with emergency situations. However, the other three, the Marigot hospital, Grand Bay hospital and Portsmouth hospital, are not as prepared.
  3. Dominicans generally have somewhat long lifespans. For men, life expectancy is 74.4 years, and for women, it’s 80.5 years. Therefore, the total average life expectancy is 77.4 years, exceeding the global average of 72 years. However, as of 2019, 30.9 infants died out of 1000 live births, which is a rate of about 3.29%.
  4. There are both primary and secondary healthcare services in Dominica. There are seven health districts in which primary healthcare services are provided by clinics. These clinics serve about 600 people each within a 5-mile radius of the district in which they are located. Princess Margaret Hospital provides secondary healthcare to the people of Dominica.
  5. Some individuals are exempt from charge for medical treatment. Those who are considered poor or needy, pregnant women, children younger than 17 years old  are exempt from the medical care charges. People who may also have an infectious and contagious disease that can spread through multiple ways (such as bodily contact, contact with bodily fluids, or breathing in the virus) are also exempt from the charges that arise from medical care.
  6. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is 0.75%. About 506 people out of a population of 72,293 people in the Dominica have HIV/AIDS. Countries that have a prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS that exceed 1% are considered to have Generalized HIV Epidemics, so Dominica is currently below that even though its rate is higher than places like the U.K. 70% of those infected by HIV/AIDS are male. In 2019, only 95 adults and children were receiving antiretroviral therapy in Dominica.
  7. The Citizenship By Investment program in Dominica helps rebuild medical buildings and infrastructure, as well as provide treatment abroad. After Hurricane Maria in 2017, the CBI program helped fund the rebuilding of six hospitals and three healthcare centers in Dominica. Similarly, the program also sponsored 16 children to receive treatment abroad in 2017-2018. The treatment was critical for the of health of the children in Dominica.
  8. The Order of St. John is an NGO project working to improve healthcare in over 40 countries, including Dominica. This international charity has over 300,000 volunteers and staff and provides multiple services such as healthcare, first aid and other methods of support. This organization, registered as an NGO in 1964, had an income of 1.44 million pounds in 2018. Its mission is to help improve the health of people around the world and alleviate worldwide sickness. Additionally, St. John works to provide volunteers with disaster preparedness training in Dominica in the case of tropical storms or other natural disasters. The organization accepts donations, 100% of which go to their programs.
  9. Another NGO, EACH, also works in Dominica to provide healthcare communication. EACH works to promote healthcare communication that is concentrated around patients. EACH also works to provide healthcare communication research, skills and tools. They strive to ensure that patients worldwide receive specialized care with regard to autonomy and safer, efficient healthcare, as well as ensuring that patients are more likely to recover from diseases. EACH became a nonprofit and charity organization in 2014.

Many organizations and hospitals are working to provide effective healthcare in Dominica. The general public can help assist these organizations through donations or volunteering. Learning more about healthcare in Dominica, as well as in different countries around the world, can help one understand both the domestic and global situation of healthcare today.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

Public Health and Education
Russia is a country located in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Russia is one of 10 nations that the World Bank has recognized for the greatest improvements to public health and education over the last decade. This improvement in human capital has had positive implications for the country’s economic and social prosperity. Here is some information about public health and education in Russia.

Improvements in Health

Russia has made strides in improving public health care since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the country’s health care system was underfunded and lacked resources, which resulted in many people being unable to receive treatment for common illnesses. In the 30 years since, Russia has vastly reformed and improved this system. Here are three ways that Russia amended its healthcare system.

  1. Quality Improvement Methodology – U.S. and Russian Federal officials worked together with the Quality Assurance Project (QAP) to implement quality improvement methods in doctor’s offices and hospitals, some examples being increased focus on patients, teamwork and use of data. Officials sought to set attainable and realistic goals for improvement that the country could fulfill in the foreseeable future.
  2. Increased Health Financing – Officials sought to direct more money into the health care system, using several methods including establishing payroll taxes for employers and private financing through commercial companies. In addition, the financing of health care was decentralized to regional and local levels to decrease strain on the national budget. Furthermore, larger cities used voluntary health insurance as a way for employers to purchase access to higher-level facilities.
  3. Pharmaceutical Reforms – Several reforms have emerged to better regulate pharmaceutical prices and production. For example, vital and essential drug lists set products at a fixed price at the federal level. This management of drug prices has increased medicinal accessibility for low-income Russians.

These measures have had several implications for overall public health improvements. Several previously common ailments have drastically decreased in prevalence. For example, pregnancy-induced hypertension, which occurred among 43.8% of women in 1998, is only present among 5.6% of women presently. In addition, better use of resources has cut costs for medical treatment of several conditions; hypertension treatment costs, for example, have decreased by 41% since the 1990s. In the future, Russia’s health care system will continue to develop with focuses on further increasing accessibility and developing primary healthcare.

Improvements in Education

Russia has demonstrated a strong education system, and the quality of education is continually improving as enrollment in higher education increases. Here are three improvements that Russia has made to its education system.

  1. State Education Strategy – Russia’s education system has incorporated a standardized curriculum, including clear milestones, implementation metrics and an action plan. This regularity has improved the quality of education nationwide by establishing the same educational expectations across all regions. In addition, the organization of two ministries, the Education Ministry and the Science and Higher Education Ministry, have improved the management of the quality of secondary and higher education.
  2. Increase in Higher Education Enrollment – From 2013 to 2017, enrollment in Russian universities increased by 40%. In addition, Russia boasts about 200,000 international students, a figure which expectations have determined could triple in the coming years. Furthermore, higher education in Russia is more affordable than Western higher education, increasing access to education for those in rural regions and low-income communities.
  3. Private Education Reform – In recent years, Russia has experienced an increase in investment in private education, with more wealthy Russians sending their children to private schools with Western-style curriculums. In accompaniment with this, teachers have been moving to Russia from other countries to teach in these schools, many coming from Britain in particular to teach English curriculums. Along with this, Russia has been cracking down on private institutions pushing ideologically irresponsible messages, limiting access to fraudulent or incomplete educations.

These measures have drastically improved the overall quality of education in Russia, which has led to increased expected years of schooling and improvements in secondary school enrollment. An overall better-educated population will be more productive in the long-term, as they will be able to transition into a competitive job market more easily and produce greater economic outcomes.

Conclusion

Education quality is strong in Russia and performance expectations are high. Health outcomes, however, are a work in progress, with Russia’s public health quality lying below the global average. Improvements in this sector will not only allow this gap to reduce but will also increase the quality of Russia’s human capital.

According to Renaud Seligmann, the World Bank Country Director in Russia, “Human capital contributes greatly to improving economic growth in every country. Investments in knowledge and health that people accumulate during their lives are of paramount concern to governments around the world.” By increasing the quality of public health and education in Russia, the country is making an investment in its population for years to come, guaranteeing that future generations will have longer life expectancies and educational attainment than those that came before them.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Taiwan
In recent decades, Taiwan has made rapid improvements in the quality of life of its people, resulting in less than 1% of the population being poor or low income. Although these facts are definitely something to celebrate, Taiwan’s demographic has changed drastically during this time. People are living longer and having fewer children, causing the rate of aging in Taiwan to accelerate. In fact, Taiwan’s accelerated rate of aging is so high that it more than doubles that of European countries and the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies an “aging society” as when 7% of the population is 65 and older. Taiwan became an aging society in 1993 and estimates have determined that it will become a “super-aged society” by 2025 as about 20% of the population could be over the age of 65.

As the size of the ever-growing elderly population expands, their quality of life dissipates. Many rural counties in Taiwan have a dependency rate (the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people of traditional working ages) in excess of 10%. These rural townships lack even more services and resources, having limited access to essentials like medical and transportation services— and most notably, caregivers who leave and move to metro areas for jobs and education. This leaves the island with a dilemma on how to promote systematic endeavors— both in policies and research, as well as encouraging more involvement in non-government organizations to help with this aging issue. Here are five positive changes regarding elderly poverty in Taiwan.

5 Positive Changes Regarding Elderly Poverty in Taiwan

  1. Providing Proper Healthcare Coverage: In 2013, Taiwan introduced the National Health Insurance Program (NHI), a single-payer compulsory social insurance plan that covers annual health examinations for seniors 65 and older. NHI grants go to those aged 70 years or older with medium to low income, and grants that may include fiscal constraints from local authorities can go to citizens aged 65 to 69.
  2. Ensuring Economic Stability: A National Pension that launched in 2005 serves Taiwanese citizens who do not receive coverage from public funds. They have assured a living allowance based on their family’s financial circumstances. This secures regular, lifelong pension benefits for an elderly population living on a lower income. If there are seniors who are not receiving shelter or resettlement services from institutions, family caregivers may receive a monthly special care allowance as an additional aid. The Pilot Program, an option for senior citizens to convert their houses and land into monthly payments, is another coverage plan also taking effect and creating a positive change in regard to elderly poverty in Taiwan.
  3. Building a Long-term Care Plan: The SFAA (Social and Family Affairs Administration) implemented an initiative to improve Taiwan’s long-term home and community-based services. Beneficial services like daily routine assistance and mental and physical healthcare for the disabled are improving the quality of life of Taiwanese seniors. The SFAA has also enacted an assistive device acquisition to support in-home mobility and improvement of residential accessibility, respite care to support family caregivers, transportation to those who require long-term care, as well as providing daily healthy meals to economically disadvantaged or disabled seniors.
  4. Establishing Access to Social Welfare Programs: New developments like tour buses are providing care services spanning from inner cities to the more rural areas of the island. The SFAA developed this to encourage seniors to step outside and interact with the community. Through this service, they can learn more about social welfare benefits like health counseling, senior care, leisure and entertainment. The SFAA has also funded Senior Citizen Schools where seniors can join courses that enhance their quality of life after retirement. Seniors also have the asset of participating in the Double Ninth Festival which insights ideas of healthy-aging by staying active and involved in competitions and other activities.
  5. Addressing the Rising Alzheimers and Dementia Crisis: A dramatic rise in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia has ignited involvement in government and non-government organizations (NGOs). Amongst these organizations making a difference in elderly poverty in Taiwan is the School of Wisdom, based in Taipei. This program enables Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to keep physically and mentally stimulated and live a fuller, happier life. Programs such as these provide helpline services, care and nursing facilities, education websites and support gatherings for the patients and their caregivers.

Adapting to a New Demographic

As Taiwan’s economic prosperity continues to evolve at a continuing rate, it is important to pay attention to those who may be falling behind. Taking affirmative action on positive changes to end elderly poverty in Taiwan is the greatest way for the Taiwanese to stay true to their rooted cultural values of respecting one’s elders and to ensure that citizens in need are experiencing an optimal quality of life.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Haiti
Light from Light is an organization built on three decades worth of friendship between Americans and Haitians. By empowering Haitians and community leaders to lead poverty-reducing efforts, the community has rallied around the central mission of the organization. Light from Light works through the Lespwa Timoun Clinic, which trains physicians and provides access to education-related services and healthcare in Haiti to surrounding communities.

Hannah Jones has worked in Haiti since December 2019, working in the clinic with Light from Light. Since her own arrival and the onset of COVID-19, Hannah has been part of the first wave of pandemic responses in Haiti. Jones’ reflection on Light from Light and the current goals is indicative of her resilience and passion for her work. The pandemic has undoubtedly shaped her job as it has exacerbated the current healthcare problems that have come from the food insecure environment. With malnutrition on the rise, Hannah Jones told The Borgen Project about Light from Light’s work with Haitian children and the topic of healthcare.

Children and Malnutrition

With the realities of food insecurity and poverty in Haiti, the major crisis affecting children is malnutrition. Based on the 2019 impact report, Light from Light has provided life-sustaining care to 1,293 infants and children. Unfortunately, the headway is seeing a setback with food prices being “nearly doubled” because of economic disruption. The clinic has experienced a sharp rise in cases of acute malnutrition. Hannah accounted that the number of malnutrition hospitalizations the clinic has outsourced, from pre-pandemic to present, went from an average of four cases per month to 18 cases in September 2020. Although complications have arisen from COVID-19, the organization is continuing its nutrition programs to offset the number of malnutrition cases.

In the areas near the Lespwa Timoun clinic, which one can translate to “Hope for Children,” one in five children experiences malnutrition. Light from Light follows programs and procedures to lessen the impact of malnutrition, including the use of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). By following weight and height data from week to week, physicians at the clinic can recommend full treatment plans that follow a child’s growth. The treatment comprises of weekly provisions of Plumpy’Nut, a type of RUTF that has high nutrient density. Children who overcome malnutrition have a better chance of becoming productive members of society.

Healthcare in Haiti

The Lespwa Timoun Clinic is an outpatient clinic with services ranging from general health screenings to prenatal programs to a diabetes club. In addition to the permanent clinic, rural communities receive access to mobile clinics. With 59% of Haitians living on less than $2 per day, taking a day off of work to seek medical care is a burden for those living on the margins. Clinical care is part of a larger goal of Light from Light to strengthen infrastructure in Haiti.

The COVID-19 response that the Lespwa Timoun Clinic facilitated has been an additional complication to healthcare in Haiti. One method of solving hygiene necessities is the Tippy Tap, an innovative no-touch hand washing machine that one can control with a foot lever. The Tippy Tap is a hallmark of Light from Light’s ability to overcome barriers and find solutions. The clinic also distributes personal protective equipment and has implemented support systems in the crisis. Despite numerous issues to tackle, the Lespwa Timoun Clinic has taken this in stride and prioritized the health of the community.

Hannah Jones provides insight into the evolving climate in Haiti and has a positive outlook on Light from Light’s future. The organization is continuing to pursue a more stable pathway for Haitians by implementing strong systems for education and healthcare in Haiti. Light from Light has formed remarkable strongholds through relationships. In time, the foundation has tremendous potential to implement tangible solutions to poverty in Haiti.

– Eva Pound
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Healthcare in Brazil
After the end of a 20-year military dictatorship, significant action began to take place regarding healthcare in Brazil. As a result of the long political struggle, healthcare as a right became enshrined in the Constitution in 1988. The Sistema Único de Saúde is the name of the public healthcare system in Brazil. Decentralized in its nature, both state and federal governments finance the system.

After a major reform in 1996, nearly 70% of the Brazilian population uses this system. The people who need it the most are those who cannot afford private health insurance, which tends to be the lower middle class, especially those who live in impoverished areas like the favelas. According to James Macinko, an associate professor of public health, the reform resulted in “Brazil [having] the lowest rate of catastrophic health expenditures (2.2 percent) of nearly any other country in the region.”

How the System Works

The system’s promise is providing equitable healthcare in Brazil, regardless of one’s socioeconomic background. As a result, many people of lower socioeconomic backgrounds received healthcare. In 1994, the government started an initiative called the Family Health Strategy. The program intended to provide healthcare services in people’s homes. While the intention of the program was not to strictly target the poor, those who reaped the greatest benefits were people of low income and living in impoverished areas.

The program was a medical success. It improved data accuracy regarding mortality, increased immunization rates to 100% and reduced unnecessary hospitalization for chronic diseases. However, most critically, it reduced the inequity in access and utilization of healthcare services. The government also created a program called Mais Medicos in 2013 which resulted in many foreign doctors (mainly from Cuba) arriving in Brazil and being placed in marginalized communities that lacked much-needed medical care.

Recurring Issues

The situation of healthcare in Brazil does raise a lot of concerns. For one, it is still sensitive to political and economic pressures. An example of this occurred in 2014 when Brazil experienced a deep recession. This resulted in the government taking austerity policies after failing to improve the economy through other means. These other means include price controls and stimulus packages. This led to lower tax revenues and significant cuts in healthcare during 2015.

On the political side, there is a recent example of Prime Minister Jair Bolsonaro capitalizing on the unpopularity of Cuban doctors by the Brazilian medical community. In the process, he made offensive accusations against the foreign professionals, required the doctors to take examinations to practice medicine in Brazil, forbade the Cuban government from taking away 75% of the doctors’ wages and mandated the doctors to have their families move to Brazil. This series of actions have alienated both the Cuban government as well as the Cuban medical practitioners which resulted in many leaving the country. This created a hole and vacuum that the government has tried yet failed to fill using Brazilian doctors. As of January 2019, 1,533 positions remain unfilled. The people who suffer most are the marginalized communities who desperately need those doctors.

Brazil’s Healthcare and Technology

Strong suggestions have emerged that one way to make Brazilian healthcare more resilient is by adding more investments to the existing infrastructure in order to make it more adequate. When it comes to making healthcare in Brazil more efficient, the leading solution providers are tech startups. They hone the power of technological innovation to address the inefficiencies in the system. One example is the startup iClinic, a Software as a Service that helps doctors with visitor management, organization of electronic records and remote telehealth consultations. It has had 22,000 customers which represent 7.5% of the market share.

On the mobile front, there are apps like Dieta e Saude. This has helped over a million and a half people make better choices regarding their dietary and exercise routines. When it comes to prescriptions, Memed is a startup that has emerged to fill the dire need for e-prescription management. It provides its services to more than 50,000 doctors. Errors occur in over 77% of prescriptions due to a lack of digitization. E-prescription management services help by reducing those errors through the use of scanning.

These are just some of the examples that make healthcare in Brazil more efficient, cost-effective and less dependent on the public healthcare system. As a result of these factors, public healthcare in Brazil will be in less need of government spending and less sensitive to political and economic pressures.

– Mustafa Ali
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in Equatorial GuineaIn the small Central African nation of Equatorial Guinea, the healthcare system is lacking in many ways. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “45 other countries in Equatorial Guinea’s per capita GDP range spent at least four times as much on health and education during the same period.” A study by the Pan African Medical Journal has reported a “lack of resources and trauma care facilities” and that  “training and informational programs for both healthcare workers and the general public may not be effectively transmitting information to the intended recipients.” Overall, it can be said that healthcare in Equatorial Guinea is in a dire state that certainly calls for assistance.

Things to Know About Healthcare in Equatorial Guinea

  1. Empty Promises. Following the discovery of oil in Equatorial Guinea in 1991, President Obiang promised investment in social services, primarily healthcare and education. Despite repeatedly saying he would prioritize those two services, financial allocation for funding has been disheartening. According to the World Bank, as of 2017, only 3.11% of the country’s GDP has been spent on healthcare, an increase since 2012, when it stood at 1.26%.
  2. Incorrect Priorities. Instead of allocating money towards improving its healthcare system, Equatorial Guinea has been investing in large infrastructure projects. In 2011, the country spent 82% of its total budget on such projects, a move that was heavily criticized by both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  3. Treatable Diseases are Deadly. Lack of funding means healthcare in Equatorial Guinea lacks diagnostic tools, trained staff, laboratory supplies, vaccines, cheap medication and condoms. The lack of affordable medicine and resources results in patients being reluctant to seek care and also means the most common treatable diseases become the deadliest. According to the Pan African Medical Journal, diseases like malaria, typhoid, sexually transmitted diseases, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses are the most common diseases, but also have the highest rate of mortality.
  4. Underfunded Healthcare Sector. The lack of funding to the healthcare sector in Equatorial Guinea also acts as a deterrent for people to join the profession and causes many to leave, due to the lack of pay. Data indicates that Equatorial Guinea has only three doctors per 10,000 people. Furthermore, because patient payments are not enough to keep facilities running, many also leave due to the difficulties in their ability to provide care.
  5. Traditional and Modern Medicine Conflict. There is a conflict between traditional and modern medicine, which many healthcare practitioners consider a “negative healthcare outcome.” Indeed, the reluctance for many families to consult hospitals to receive care due to the high cost of medication may drive them to traditional medicine methods instead. Though this conflict has been noted before, not many steps have been taken to help mitigate the gap.

Despite the dire state of healthcare in Equatorial Guinea, research does not indicate that the country is receiving much help from aid organizations or other countries to improve the situation. This conclusion indicates a desperate need for aid to better the country’s healthcare system. With help, healthcare in Equatorial Guinea can be drastically improved.

Mathilde Venet
Photo: Flickr