Health Care Access in Indonesia
Health care access in Indonesia is expanding due to U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) support as the USTDA approved on January 26, 2023, a grant to present to Indonesia’s Ministry of Health (MoH). The grant will finance the research and development of a National Imagining Data Repository (NIDR), which will enable “healthcare providers to reach, diagnose and treat underserved communities across Indonesia using a cloud-based centralized warehouse for patient information,” according to the USTDA website. This push for innovative digital health care technology will strengthen Indonesia’s health care system after the COVID-19 pandemic revealed several shortcomings. GE Healthcare, based in Illinois, is partnering with the MoH on the project.

The State of Health Care in Indonesia

As of 2021, more than 40% of Indonesia’s population lives in rural areas. These people stand as a focal point in this health care access expansion. Indonesia has a limited number of doctors typically situated in urban centers. The fact that, as of 2021, Indonesia had only about 6.95 doctors per 10,000 people supports this.

People in Indonesia saw an increase in access to health care in 2014 when the National Health Insurance program began. Indonesia spends just 3.2% of its GDP on health care, which is lower than other comparable countries, but experts project that this will rise.

With this in mind, there is much to do to increase access to health care in Indonesia, especially considering 3.6% of the population (9.8 million people) lives under the international poverty line as of 2021. However, the government is actively focusing on better serving those across the nation through the USTDA’s support.

Diving into the Project

“Indonesia is placing considerable focus on the digitalization of its health care sector, to strengthen its resilience using innovative technology and to support economic growth,” stated Enoh T. Ebong, USTDA’s director, in a press release.

“USTDA’s pilot will initially focus on sending radiology and cardiology images to a cloud-hosted environment that will provide a centralized location to view all patient medical information for referring physicians from 10 hospitals in the greater Jakarta region,” the press release explains.

After this process is in motion, it will provide a baseline for larger data cumulation and clinical partnering all around Indonesia. The NIDR will be able to expand to “serve as a platform for a variety of other patient types,” including obstetrics and orthopedics.

“Digital Transformation is at the forefront of our policy agenda in Indonesia and we see this as a key step to achieving our ambitions,” said Kunta Wibawa Dasa Nugraha, secretary general of Indonesia’s Ministry of Health, in a press release. Indonesia’s health care system faces barriers in serving the entire country due to how the population is spread out across remote locations and multiple islands.

USTDA’s support of this project will advance the goals of Indonesia MoH’s “Blueprint of Digital Health Transformation Strategy 2024.” It will also further “one of the key pillars of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which aims to strengthen global health security through investments in patient-centered health services,” says the press release. The collaborative efforts will allow increased access to health care for Indonesians in rural, remote areas.

Looking Forward

The health care access expansion in Indonesia due to USTDA support will propel the country’s health care into the digital age while strengthening Indonesia’s health care system overall. It will also increase quality health care access for the most disadvantaged people in remote areas of the country.

– Sean McMullen
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