Healthcare in EcuadorHome to the Galapagos Islands and where the equator runs right through, Ecuador is also home to an extremely impoverished population, where 21.5% live beneath the poverty line. In a country where many people struggle to get their daily needs met, long-maintained and accessible healthcare in Ecuador gets set on the back burner. This can exacerbate the obstacles the population faces in seeking wellness alongside food insecurity and sanitation.

The national healthcare in Ecuador was first deployed in 1967, where it floundered in providing reliable and efficient coverage for its population. Spanning the time between 1992 and 2006, Ecuador underwent eight national governments. This lack of stability created a turbulent socio-political landscape. It ended up wounding the efficacy of the various infrastructural sectors, including health. The Constitution of 2008 declares health to be a right. This supports the moral tenants on which its publicly integrated healthcare system operates, those being the universality and equity of it.

Ecuador spends 9.16% of its GDP on health. This number grew from spending $1.153 billion in 2010 to spending $2.570 billion in 2015. For comparison, the United States, a much wealthier nation, spends about 17.7% as a health expenditure, which amounts to about $3.6 trillion.

The State of Health

Deficiency diseases, which are common in places that struggle with food and nutrition security, along with infectious diseases and degenerative conditions are prevalent within the population. The most common health issues tend to arise from vehicular accidents and assaults.

The World Health Organization measures an efficient healthcare system. It is according to population health, equality in healthcare, the responsiveness of the system, the distribution of a responsive system and the responsible allocation of healthcare expenditures. Ecuador is still making strides in all of these criteria.

Additionally, the healthcare system itself lacks consistency, as those delivering care struggle to coordinate. The classification of different sub-sets within the umbrella of healthcare is also poorly defined. Each healthcare institution has its own structure, management and funds. They can make for unequal care for the people depending on their varying circumstances.

The Healthcare System

Furthermore, Ecuador has two kinds of healthcare: private and public. The public sector includes Social Security and other government institutions such as the Armed Forces and the National Police. There are also private organizations that work within the public sector such as the Cancer Society and Ecuadorian Red Cross.

Also, the national budget, funds that come from outside of the budget, outside agreements and organizations and emergency funds all subsidize public healthcare. Meanwhile, private organizations selling their service to the public health sector, private health insurers and pre-paid health insurance bankroll the private health sector. Private insurers and pre-paid insurers cover 3% of the middle to high-income population.

The Country Takes Action

Fortunately, the country is fighting to create a healthcare system that works for and is accessible to everyone in Ecuador. This includes the poorest and most vulnerable communities. As a result, the Ecuador Ministry of Public Health decided to deploy healthcare in Ecuador that prioritizes primary care. The number of those covered by the healthcare system has been rising. In 2007, the number was just 1,518,164, which rose to 3,123,467 as of 2014.

Overall, healthcare in Ecuador has been improving throughout the years. However, as of June, Ecuador clocked in at one of the highest per-capita COVID-19 death rates in the world. Ecuador’s developing healthcare system struggles to keep up with the pandemic. In the meantime, organizations like Direct Relief are sending donations and resources to Ecuador. They attempt to triage the economic damage and loss of life that will be wrought. The nation continues to build a more robust, sustained infrastructure. Such relief is being used to fill in gaps where Ecuador may have been struggling with preventative measures, such as protective clothing and clinics.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

healthcare worker emigrationThe emigration of skilled healthcare workers from developing countries to higher-income nations has significantly impacted the healthcare systems of the countries these workers leave behind. The quantity and quality of healthcare services have declined as a result of healthcare worker shortages. While there is still incredible room for growth, recent governmental strategies have incentivized healthcare workers to work in their home countries.

Why Is Healthcare Worker Emigration a Problem?

When healthcare workers emigrate, they leave hospitals in developing countries without enough skilled workers. Lower-income countries are likely to carry a greater amount of the global disease burden while having an extremely low healthcare staff to patient ratio. For example, sub-Saharan Africa only has 3% of all healthcare workers worldwide, while it carries 25% of the global disease burden. In many African countries with severe healthcare worker emigration, like Lesotho and Uganda, hospitals become overcrowded. Furthermore, hospitals cannot provide proper treatment for everyone due to the lack of skilled workers.

This directly affects the quality of care patients receive in countries with high healthcare worker emigration. Newborn, child and maternal health outcomes are worse when there are worker shortages. When fewer workers are available, fewer people receive healthcare services and the quality of care worsens for populations in need.

Why Do Healthcare Workers Emigrate?

The emigration of doctors, nurses, and other skilled healthcare workers from developing countries occurs for a number of reasons. The opportunity for higher wages elsewhere is often the most important factor in the decision to emigrate. Additionally, healthcare workers may migrate to higher-income nations to find political stability and achieve a better quality of life. The rate of highly skilled worker emigration, which has been on the rise since it was declared a major public health issue in the 1940s, has left fragile healthcare systems with a diminished workforce.

Moreover, the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the countries receiving the greatest numbers of healthcare worker immigrants, actively recruit healthcare workers from developing countries. These recruitment programs aim to combat the U.S. and U.K.’s own shortages of healthcare workers. Whether or not these programs factor into workers’ migration, both the U.S. and the U.K. are among the top five countries to which 90% of migrating physicians relocate.

Mitigating Healthcare Worker Emigration

The World Health Organization suggests that offering financial incentives, training and team-based opportunities can contribute to job satisfaction. This may motivate healthcare workers to remain in the healthcare system of their home country. Some developing countries have implemented these strategies to incentivize healthcare professionals to remain in their home countries.

For example, Malawi faced an extreme shortage of healthcare workers in the early 2000s. Following policy implementation addressing healthcare worker emigration, the nation has seen a decrease in the emigration rate. Malawi’s government launched the Emergency Human Resources Program (EHRP) in 2004. This program promoted worker retention through a 52% salary increase, additional training and the recruitment of volunteer nursing tutors and doctors. 

In only five years after the EHRP began, the proportion of healthcare workers to patients grew by 66% while emigration declined. Malawi expanded upon this program in 2011 with the Health Sector Strategic Plan. Following this plan, the number of nurses in Malawi grew from 4,500 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2015. Though the nation still faces some worker shortages, it hopes to continue to address this with further policy changes.

Trinidad is another a country that has mitigated the challenges faced by the emigration of healthcare workers. Trinidadian doctors who train in another country now get government scholarships to pay for their training. However, these scholarships rest on the condition that they return home to practice medicine for at least five years. Such a financial incentive creates a stronger foundation for healthcare professionals to practice in their home country.

A Turn Toward Collaboration

A recent study determined that the collaboration of nurses, doctors and midwives significantly decreased mortality for mothers and children in low-income countries. As developing countries work toward generating strategies to manage the emigration of healthcare workers, a team-based approach can improve the quality of healthcare. When there are shortages of certain kinds of health professionals in remote areas, family health teams composed of workers in varying health disciplines can collaborate to provide care. 

Improving working conditions and providing both financial and non-financial incentives to healthcare professionals in developing countries not only benefits workers and the patients, but the nation’s healthcare infrastructure as a whole. An increase in the number of skilled healthcare workers in developing countries gives people there the opportunity for a better life.

– Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr

Limited access to healthcare is a challenge that millions of people face globally. According to data collected by the World Bank and W.H.O., roughly half of the global population had no way to access necessary health services in December 2017. The high costs of getting healthcare forced nearly 100 million people into poverty that year. For hundreds of millions of people across the world, even basic healthcare is economically out of reach. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put additional strain on healthcare systems around the globe. The pandemic has disrupted medicine supply chains in many parts of the world, preventing vital medical supplies from reaching hospitals in a timely manner. This is particularly dangerous for developing countries with healthcare systems that were already struggling to meet their countries’ needs. However, recent technological innovations like BraineHealth are seeking to revolutionize healthcare to overcome these issues.

How BraineHealth Can Help

This problem may seem insurmountable, but not to BraineHealth. The Swedish company is hoping to use artificial intelligence and robotics to make healthcare more accessible for people throughout the world. BraineHealth’s healthcare innovations can apply many areas of healthcare, such as primary healthcare, senior healthcare and mental health services. In all these areas, BraineHealth hopes to connect doctors and other medical professionals with their patients in a way that is easy, affordable and safe.

With BraineHealth’s system, patients could potentially receive diagnoses and expert medical consultations without having to leave their homes. This would reduce medical costs and travel expenses for patients, and it would provide a safer alternative to in-person appointments. Here are four BraineHealth programs that seek to revolutionize healthcare.

4 BraineHealth Programs Revolutionizing Healthcare

  1. Artificial Intelligence: BraineHealth is developing an AI program that will allow for quicker and more efficient remote diagnoses. This program receives information about a patient’s symptoms provided by the patient and analyzes this report. By examining it against a database of thousands of documented diagnoses, the algorithm can provide as accurate a diagnosis as possible.
  2. Diabetio: This program combines social robotics and artificial intelligence to assist diabetic patients with managing their diabetes. The Diabetio robot will help manage the patient’s carbohydrate intake, and it will keep the patient informed about whether they are at risk of developing diabetes. To help the patient most efficiently, this program will retain and process information about the patient’s daily activities.
  3. Medipacker: BraineHealth is also looking to revolutionize healthcare by expanding access to medical information and education through its Medipacker education program. This program aims to give backpackers the opportunity to become qualified first-aid providers at little to no cost. By removing economic barriers to first-aid education, BraineHealth hopes to encourage more people around the world to learn about emergency medicine.
  4. InEmpathy: Recently, BraineHealth has partnered with the charity InEmpathy. InEmpathy’s work focuses on building better systems of healthcare in developing countries. Crucially, this organization is now helping to bring BraineHealth’s technological innovations to communities in need. BraineHealth will therefore be able to adapt its technologies to best fit the needs of their destination countries.

Looking to the Future

Millions worldwide lack adequate access to healthcare. Even in areas that have hospitals, the costs of health services are often too high for poor communities. Using technological innovation, BraineHealth is working to revolutionize healthcare so that the people in these communities can have access to healthcare that would otherwise be out of reach.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in NigerNiger, officially the Republic of Niger, is a country in Western Africa. It neighbors Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, and it spans just over 1.25 million square kilometers of land. Niger has faced several violent conflicts in the past. Some of the battles still pose a threat to the country and its 22.3 million inhabitants. Issues regarding inadequate healthcare are one of the several socio-economic problems Nigeriens live with on a day-to-day basis. Here is what you need to know about healthcare in Niger.

Human Development Index (HDI)

Out of 189 countries reviewed, Niger ranked the lowest on the United Nation’s 2019 Human Development Report. The major contributors to the ranking were the country’s life expectancy at birth and the average number of years of schooling. With a life expectancy of 62 years and only two years of education, Niger’s underdeveloped health and education facilities significantly strain them.

Global Hunger Index (GHI)

The majority of health problems stem from malnutrition and inadequate food supply. The Global Hunger Index score provides insights into the critical aspects of healthcare in Niger. The GHI comprises four categories to determine a country’s score: under-nourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality. The higher the GHI score, the more hunger and health issues within the state.

Additionally, Niger’s GHI score in 2000 was at an alarming 52.1 and steadily decreased throughout the years. Five years later, in 2005, the score dropped to 42.2 and is currently at the country’s lowest score of 30.2. A significant decrease in the overall GHI score is because of the individual declines in each category.

Over the years, under-nourishment decreased from affecting 21.6% of the population to 16.5%. Child stunting decreased by approximately 15%, and child wasting decreased by 6% and child mortality decreased by about 14% over 20 years.

Progress Throughout The Years

Furthermore, the healthcare facilities within Niger still lack investments. Through funding and continuing to struggle to provide Nigeriens with quality health, the country has come a long way. It has been almost 20 years since the start of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. With that, Niger has significantly increased the average life expectancy, literacy rate and poverty reduction initiatives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Niger to have a life expectancy of 46, a literacy rate of 17% and extreme poverty for 60% of the population in 2005. Since then, much progress has been made in all categories. In 2019, the United Nations and the World Bank reported Niger’s life expectancy as 62, literacy rate as 30% and an extreme poverty rate of 41%.

 Overall, healthcare in Niger still lacks adequate funding and consists of several underdeveloped facilities. However, the country’s continuous work with international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, UNICEF, USAID and more has led to a steady betterment and progress.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

Maternal MortalityMaternal mortality refers to the death of a woman due to causes related to or aggravated by her pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all (99%) of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, and 68% occur in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. The Trends in Maternal Mortality 2000-2017 report is a joint effort by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division. Its statistics showcase huge global health disparities that leave African mothers extremely vulnerable. Maternal Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa is a prevalent issue.

Health Inequality in Maternal Healthcare

Almost all maternal deaths can be prevented, yet in 2017, Sub-Saharan Africans suffered from the highest maternal mortality (MMR). The ratio was 533 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, or 200,000 maternal deaths a year. All three countries with the highest MMR globally with over 1000 deaths per 100,000 live births, considered a too high rate, are in Sub-Saharan Africa. South Sudan has 1150, Chad has 1140 and Sierra Leone has 1120. In comparison, the 2017 MMR in North America and Western Europe is 18 and 5.

The fact that MMR is under 10 in many countries means that current technology and medical knowledge are already capable of reducing MMR to almost zero. The global imperative is to improve health infrastructure and education in developing nations to access services and resources available to protect mothers in the developed world.

The Importance of Access

Also, the lack of access to health facilities and medical professionals is among the main reasons for maternal deaths. In Africa, there are 985 people for every nurse or midwife and 3,324 people for every medical doctor. This means that many pregnant women do not receive antenatal, delivery and newborn care. Consequently, there is a dramatic increase in their risk of dying from severe bleeding, infections or other complications. Ensuring accessible and affordable health facilities for all women would eliminate risks of preventable and treatable deaths.

Adolescent Pregnancy

Additionally, improving sexual health education is the key to eliminating adolescent pregnancies. These pregnancies account for a significant portion of maternal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa. Teenage girls, especially those under 15, have a higher risk of maternal mortality than older women. For example, in 2014, there were 224 adolescents per 1,000 cases of pregnancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the highest teenage pregnancy rate globally, followed by Liberia, which has 221, and Niger, which has 204. Improvements in sexual health education would inform young girls of contraceptive options, family planning methods and safe abortion facilities.

Progress Tracker

Furthermore, significant efforts have succeeded in reducing maternal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa. From 2000 to 2017, Sub-Saharan Africa has achieved a substantial reduction of 39% of maternal mortality. This percentage is from 870 to 533 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. A significant number of countries in this region have reduced their MMR by more than half. Rwanda is at 79%, Mongolia is at 71%, Eritrea is at 63%, Zambia is at 60% and Cabo Verde is at 51%.

Overall, WHO has stated that improving maternal health remains one of their key priorities. In 2015, the global health organization launched the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. It aims at ending all preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents. UN’s Sustainable Development Goal target 3.1, also launched in 2015, aims at reducing global MMR to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030. The current MMR in Africa is still seven times less than the target. Nevertheless, promising results from past and current campaigns indicate that a better future is within reach.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

Dengue Fever in Singapore Is on the RiseDengue fever is not an uncommon virus, The World Health Organization estimates that there are around 390 million cases of dengue fever annually. The majority of these cases were reported in Asia with only 30% of these cases occurring outside of the continent. In 2019, it is estimated that Asia had 273 million cases of dengue fever. Dengue fever in Singapore has been rising since 2018, however, there has been a sharp increase of reported cases throughout 2020.

Dengue fever is spread by female mosquitoes and is most prominent in tropical areas. The severity of dengue fever can differ largely. In mild cases of dengue fever, the infected person may experience severe flu-like symptoms such as joint pain, fever, vomiting and headaches. However, severe dengue fever is associated with internal bleeding, decreased organ function and the excretion of plasma. Severe dengue fever, if left untreated, has a mortality rate of up to 20%.

Dengue Fever in Singapore

Singapore has experienced many dengue fever epidemics. The most recent epidemic occurred in 2013. It was the largest outbreak in Singaporean history. However, in 2020, Singapore has exceeded the 22,170 dengue fever cases reported throughout the 2013 outbreak. As of July 2020, the number of dengue fever cases reported in Singapore was higher than 14,000. This exceeds the number of cases reported in July during the 2013 outbreak and is almost twice as many cases reported in July 2019.

The National Environment Agency of Singapore reports that the number of cases being reported continues to be on an upward trend, suggesting this may be the worst outbreak of dengue fever in Singapore’s history. Singapore has also reported that there are 610 active dengue fever clusters as of October 3, 2020. A dengue cluster is where there are two or more confirmed dengue fever cases reported in a localized area within 14 days. As of October 5, there were more than 30,800 cases of dengue fever in 2020.

Changes in Dengue Fever

The 2020 outbreak of dengue fever has been driven by the virus serotype DenV-3. There are four major serotypes of dengue fever with DenV-3 being one of the least common. The prevalence of the serotype DenV-3 increased from the beginning of 2019 where nearly 50% of cases were reported to be DenV-3. This means there is lower population immunity, causing higher rates of infection and an increased likelihood of severe dengue fever development.

The typical season for dengue fever in Singapore is from June to October. However, Singapore had a major rise in cases in mid-May 2020, increasing the season length by two to three weeks. The sudden rise in dengue fever in Singapore has been attributed to a decrease in preventative measures due to the lock-down caused by COVID-19. Singapore imposed a lockdown on April 7 to minimize the spread of COVID-19. As a result, more people have neglected taking preventative actions such as removing still bodies of water around their homes to decrease mosquito breeding.

How Singapore Can Stop the Spread

The spread of dengue fever in Singapore can be decreased by mobilizing the Singaporean population to take active measures in preventing mosquito breeding. Removing stagnant water from gardens and gutters will help remove the breeding ground for mosquitoes. Also loosening hard soil and spraying pesticides in dark corners of the home will stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in these areas. The Singaporean government is also urging people to use insect repellent throughout the peak dengue fever season to stop the infection.

The Singaporean government has highlighted that the dengue fever outbreak in Singapore is a major health concern that needs immediate attention. With two significant health concerns, COVID-19 and dengue fever outbreaks occurring simultaneously, preventative measures must be taken to ensure the healthcare system is not overrun. With compliance to the National Environment Agency’s guidelines, the Singaporean people will be able to reduce the number of dengue fever infections.

Laura Embry
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Kiribati
Kiribati is a small island nation in Oceania consisting of 32 atolls, or coral islands. A developing country and former British colony, Kiribati is now home to around 115,000 people. Unfortunately, healthcare in Kiribati is limited and citizens, known as I-Kiribati, suffer from unsafe drinking water and high child mortality rates. But there is a silver lining: healthcare has significantly improved over the past several decades and continues to improve today.

Lingering Healthcare Issues

Lack of access to clean water is one of the largest health issues in Kiribati. Water is largely unsanitary to the point that in 2014, only 67% of I-Kiribati used an improved water source. As a result of this lack of access to clean water, diarrhea and related health issues are common. Only 40% of I-Kiribati had access to adequate sanitation in 2014, exacerbating the clean water issue.

Another major issue is Kiribati’s under-5 child mortality rate, which is 50.9 per 1,000 live births. For comparison, the United States has an under-5 child mortality rate of 6.5 per 1,000 live births. Kiribati’s under-5 child mortality rate is higher than the global average of 39. Fortunately, child mortality rates in Kiribati have been declining for at least 20 years. The under-5 child mortality rate was 95.5 per 1,000 live births in 1990 and has decreased almost every year since then.

A notable portion of adults in Kiribati smoke, a practice known to cause respiratory complications later on in life. The smoking rate of I-Kiribati over the age of 15 was 47% in 2016, down from over 70% in 2000.

The government funds and operates all health services, which are free for citizens. There are only four hospitals in the country, with 30 health centers and 75 clinics scattered among the islands. Although these health centers and clinics offer care for relatively minor injuries and diseases, I-Kiribati have struggled to find proper care for more serious health concerns. Low-quality healthcare has been an issue as well.

The Kiribati-WHO Country Cooperation Strategy 2018-2022

Fortunately, the government is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to improve access to quality healthcare in Kiribati. Through the Kiribati-WHO Country Cooperation Strategy 2018-2022 (and the preceding 2013-2017 one), the WHO and other partnered organizations send funds to support government-led efforts to improve health systems. According to a database compiled by the International Aid Transparency Initiative, the WHO has directly contributed a total of $2.6 million for 45 projects in Kiribati.

The government’s priorities for this initiative include combating communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and leprosy, which are more common in Kiribati than in any other Pacific country. Additional goals include combating non-communicable diseases and improving the quality, efficiency and accessibility of healthcare. Because the initiative is funding government-led efforts, it will improve health services for the entire Kiribati population.

FSP Kiribati

Local non-governmental organizations are helping to improve living conditions as well. The Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International has a local branch, FSP Kiribati, which has worked in Kiribati for over 20 years. FSP Kiribati partners with other local NGOs and international groups to provide education in areas as wide-ranging as health, civic engagement and sanitation. They teach locals how to cook their produce and help them access clean water, improving their health.

Healthcare in Kiribati has greatly improved due to these efforts. As shown in the data above, the number of people affected by Kiribati’s most significant health issues (child mortality rate, tobacco usage, etc.) has steadily decreased over the past decades. Life expectancy has risen from 60 to 66 years between 1990 and 2015. Kiribati’s health concerns are not inconsequential, but the government has partnered with international groups to improve the situation. The government’s current prioritization of healthcare quality is an important next step.

– Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Estonia
Estonia is a small country in eastern Europe. Estonia is a former USSR state that gained independence in 1991. As a part of the USSR, Estonia had to rebuild the entire country, including the healthcare system. Healthcare in Estonia has improved since its independence. Though Estonia has come a long way in advancing the quality of its healthcare system, the newly independent country still has a long way to go.

Issues with the Current System

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Estonia is behind in many aspects of the healthcare system in comparison to the European Union counterparts. Estonia spends almost half of the money on healthcare per capita in comparison to the average in other European Union countries. Estonia’s life expectancy is 2.5 years less than the European average. Also, Estonia has a 13% rate of unmet medical needs while the European average is under 3%.

The lack of adequate healthcare funding causes Estonia to have a shortage of nurses, doctors and enough infrastructure to care for patients. The number of doctors and nurses in Estonia decreases every year because they do not get paid enough. According to Politico, Estonia has lost 141.6 doctors and nurses per 100,000 people between 1998 and 2016, the highest percentage in Europe. With a decreasing number of healthcare professionals, a future where citizens cannot receive the care they need seems imminent.

Another issue troubling the healthcare system of Estonia is the unhealthy habits of Estonia’s citizens. Estonia has a sizeable amount of people who are current smokers, alcohol consumers and overweight or obese. According to WHO, 24% of adults in Estonia smoke daily, 23% binge drink and 20% are obese. With the immense number of people with unhealthy habits and a progressing healthcare system, Estonia struggles to adequately care for the large number of people who develop chronic diseases.

Last, Estonia has one of the highest rates of those without long-term health insurance coverage in the European Union. Because so many people in Estonia do not have long-term health insurance, uninsured people do not get the healthcare they need to prevent and treat diseases.

Estonia’s healthcare system impacts the impoverished significantly more than its upper classes. According to WHO, the percentage of low-income Estonians who are in good health is 34% while the middle class is 51% and the high class is 75%. Also, low-income and educated individuals are more likely to binge drink, over twice as likely to smoke and almost 30% more likely to be obese. Lastly, the lowest education and income group in Estonia is about 50% more likely to have chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and 40% more likely to have hypertension.

Positive Change

Though there are many issues facing healthcare in Estonia, promising developments in the system have been reported. Estonia recently approved a National Health Plan to run from the years 2020 to 2030. The overall goal of this plan is to improve life expectancy and quality of life. The National Health Plan is to implement three plans to improve the quality of healthcare, promote healthy choices and create a healthy environment.

The Estonian government also approved a bill to increase healthcare spending by 180 million euros on top of the normal funding. The government stated that the additional money will “improve the accessibility of healthcare services and the consistency and quality of care.”

With the implementation of a good deal of new legislation in Estonia, healthcare in Estonia has a promising future.

– Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

SDG 7 in Costa Rica
Costa Rica ranks 35th out of 193 countries in the United Nations 2020 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Report. This is quite an impressive feat for a Central American nation of just 5 million people. Especially when compared to its southern and northern neighbors — Panama and Nicaragua, which rank 81st and 85th, respectively. While challenges remain for many of Costa Rica’s sustainable development goals, the country is doing a remarkable job of achieving and maintaining SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. SDG 7 aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Costa Rica is often lauded as one of the greenest nations on Earth and is consistently viewed as a case study in the development and application of renewable energy. Below is a brief update on three components of SDG 7 in Costa Rica, i.e. affordable and clean energy.

Population with Access to Electricity

The latest U.N. estimate finds that 99.6% of Costa Ricans have access to electricity. This is great for not only the government (in their attempt to achieve the SDG 7) but for everyday Costa Ricans who have a steady stream of electricity. Costa Rica is ahead of the curve in the methods that it uses to generate power; 98% of its electricity comes from renewable energy sources. In breaking down this 98% figure into its parts — 72% is hydropower, 16% wind, 9% geothermal and 1% biomass/solar. This virtually universal access to electricity from renewable sources is the basis for providing affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica.

Access to Clean Fuels & Technology for Cooking

Clean cooking fuels and technology are classified by the SDG report as those that lead to fewer emissions and/or are more fuel-efficient. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), kerosene is not a clean fuel. The SDG panel (composed of experts from the WHO, International Energy Agency, World Bank and other prominent organizations) estimates that nearly 3 billion people use “traditional stoves and fuels” which pose risks to human health, the environment and the climate.

Additionally, estimates point to household air pollution as the cause of death for 4.3 million people per year. Costa Rica’s nearly universal access to electricity and its foundation in renewable energy sources affords more than 93% of households access to clean fuels and technology for cooking. In contrast, just over 50% of Nicaraguan homes have access to clean energy and technology for daily cooking. Among Central American nations, Costa Rica leads the way in terms of progressing towards this fully realized, key component of SDG 7.

CO₂ Emissions: Fuel Combustion for Electricity & Heating

Costa Rica is bested in this statistic by only two nations in all of North and South America (Paraguay and Uruguay). While the SDG report lists Costa Rica as “on track” toward reaching zero emissions in this category, Costa Rica’s CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion for electricity and heating are marginally higher than its emissions in 2000. In this regard, SDG 7 in Costa Rica has room for improvement. However, both numbers are still lower than about 90% of all U.N. nations.

A Commitment to Further Progress

Affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica is a shining example of the country’s progress and strengths within its annual SDG report. This is due to Costa Rica’s stunning foundation of renewable energy and its commitment to developing and providing access to cheap, clean and reliable energy to citizens. The Ticos (native Costa Ricans) recognize the need to go even further and are dedicating themselves towards becoming a net-zero emitter by 2050 — with their recent Decarbonization Plan. Costa Rica is a model for countries seeking a shift towards clean energy amid the stark realities of the 21st-century climate situation.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Playing sports can foster development for developing countries
The implementation of sports programs provides children with the opportunity to learn teamwork, participation and leadership qualities. Physical activity also stimulates health improvements and offers children equal opportunities to engage in activities. Large, sports associations also spread awareness of global poverty and extend campaigns to a much greater audience. Therefore, sports can foster development in developing nations.

World Health Organization (WHO)

In 2018, the World Health Organization published a global action plan to increase the amount of physical activity worldwide. WHO plans to create a healthier world by 2030. Their strategy is to deliver various selections of physical activity including sports, recreational activities and walking. WHO specifically wants to create opportunities for women, middle-aged adults and individuals with debilities. Currently, 75% of children and 25% of adults do not satisfy the global standard for physical activity. Exercise is essential for healthcare and the development of a nation. Physical activity has also been confirmed to prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer and mental health illnesses. Physical activity is important for child development, teaching children numerous lessons and qualities. Therefore, WHO targets to increase the amount of regular physical activity to reduce the amount of premature mortality. The WHO’s physical activity plan will also further aide in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.


UNICEF has also designed sports programs to protect children from violence, disrupt inequality norms and eliminate limits on participation based on physical capabilities. The nonprofit organization strives for “inclusive sport.” UNICEF believes that sports will bring communities together in a positive setting. Sports also provide children with disabilities the opportunity to recognize their potential.  From 2010 to 2013, the Montenegro government and UNICEF ran an “It’s about ability” campaign. The campaign’s primary goal was to create a more accepting society. At the end of the campaign, Montenegro’s citizens recorded more than a 40% increase in citizen approval of their children being in the same class as a child with disabilities. This newfound acceptance will further benefit Montenegro’s government and economy. Therefore, sports can foster development in developing nations.

NFL Athlete Josh Doctson

Over the past couple of months, the coronavirus has dictated several shutdowns across the globe. The rise in the uncertainty of the virus has influenced several U.S. athletes to skip on this year’s upcoming season. One NFL star, Josh Doctson, has decided to sit-out this season and advocate for the world’s poor. Mr. Doctson plans on visiting several African countries, including Rwanda, in hope that he will raise awareness for the underprivileged. The NFL player’s decision to conduct a humanitarian campaign has attracted a lot of attention thus far and therefore already raised attentiveness for the cause.

Sports Events

Local sports events have the potential to generate employment and incentivize the production of goods and services related to the event. reports that marathon events hosted by local communities in Peru create a host of economic opportunities. One race, in particular, generated a manufacturing demand and a surge in tourism activities.

Sports programs have been proven to create safe environments, disrupt societal norms and teach children valuable lessons. If implemented appropriately, sports can foster development in developing nations. Nonprofit organizations, international sports teams and professional players also spread global awareness for poverty and inequality. As sports products become widely available globally, sports programs will begin to be implemented at an increasing rate and further contribute to the health, development and success of a nation’s upcoming generation and their economy.

John Brinkman
Photo: Flickr