Health is an essential prerequisite to nearly all other aspects of a person’s life. But in poor countries with limited resources, it often feels impossible to address the population’s healthcare needs. Luckily, big hospital complexes with cutting-edge technologies are not always necessary for keeping people healthy. In rural and cash-strapped countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, prevention provides healthcare to the world’s poor.
Preventive medicine is the cheapest and most effective healthcare strategy for poor nations. For countries that cannot afford the U.S.’s model of large hospitals and expensive treatments, it is much cheaper to prevent health problems than to cure them.
Examples of preventive medicine include measures such as immunizations, educational campaigns and mosquito nets. These are low-cost options that aim to avert diseases and other health risks before they develop. These preventive steps require limited infrastructure. Most of them can be carried out in small clinics in even the remotest regions. They also require less advanced medical training. This low barrier to entry equips more healthcare providers to offer more accessible healthcare.
Preventive medicine is an important and cost-effective way to keep people in developing regions from suffering from health risks such as AIDS, malaria and malnutrition.
A prime example of the effectiveness of a preventive model of healthcare is the case of Cuba. The small agricultural nation has long suffered from a shortage of revenue and resources. But since the early 1960s, Cuba has employed a vigorous preventive healthcare method. Small clinics with primary care doctors are active in every neighborhood, even the most rural. Immunization programs have achieved some of the lowest rates of vaccine-preventable diseases in the world. Thanks to educational campaigns in favor of healthy lifestyle choices, Cubans have a slightly higher life expectancy than Americans. Cuba has reached these healthcare achievements in spite of spending a tenth of what the US spends per person on healthcare.
Preventive healthcare is the most cost-effective option for countries in Cuba’s economic position, but it is not free. The cost of the WHO’s recommended vaccine package is $38 per person. A long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net that can protect three children from mosquitos costs $2.50 on average. And there are additional costs in actually providing these preventive resources to the poor communities that need them. But these costs hardly compare to the millions of dollars spent by developed countries on hospitals, technologies and treatments.
Prevention provides healthcare to the world’s poor in the cheapest and most comprehensive way possible.
– Bret Anne Serbin