Health Care Investment
Lack of access to health care is one of the key signs of a poverty-stricken or developing nation, but few realize that the affordability of what health care may be available also plays a significant part in what makes and keeps people poor. The World Bank estimates that health care costs alone forced or pushed further more than a half-billion people into poverty in 2021.

The Need for Poverty-Improving Health Care Investment

Folks who have to spend more on health care are far less likely to spend that money on their other needs, such as nutrition or the education of their family. Poor health alone is estimated to claim 15% of the world’s GDP each year in unnecessary deaths and the subsequent loss of productive potential. People’s lack of access to affordable health care not only has a profoundly negative effect on their personal lives but also subtracts from their social and economic involvement. Though a problem at every income level, the effect that poor health care can have on the developing world is more profound — it stunts their economic growth and leaves them further in danger of extreme poverty.

In this way, health care investment plays a crucial role in the reduction of poverty. When poorer citizens are less concerned with their access or ability to pay for health care, they are able to contribute more meaningfully to the workforce and are far more likely to spend their money on other needs. Notably, good health can encourage savings and is a major proponent in business investment, both beneficial activities for economic growth. This pattern played out in the recent past, in the latter half of the 20th century.

As hygiene and health improved, the improvements in avoidance of health complications led to a longer life expectancy and an improved quality of life — something that contributed heavily to the “rapid expansion of the labor force and labor productivity.” Though health care remains a limitation to the economic growth of both the developing and the developed world, the effects of good health care upon the economy and the necessity for further investment are historically evident.

Tangible Benefits of Health Care Upon Poverty

Health care investment has a real-world benefit for those suffering from poverty. Some estimates remark that more than 60 million lives could be saved in the next decade if “annual spending on primary health care in low and middle-income industries” was increased by just 5%. Beyond the loss of life, the economic consequences of mass illness are devastating to the developing world’s economy — the SARS epidemic produced a loss of more than $40 billion in productivity, and the 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak created a loss of $53 billion. Put in the most simple of terms — when people are happy and healthy, so is the economy, and the developing world benefits the most from this form of growth.

Going Forward

A focus on health care investment saves lives and alleviates one of the major causes of poverty in the developing world. The subsequent social and economic gains are not only a benefit to the people who receive them, but further introduce these nations onto the global economic stage. With the investment of affluent nations into the health care systems of developing parts of the world, the entire globe stands to benefit.

– Marc Federici
Photo: Flickr

A good way to learn about an aid organization is to see it at work on a current issue. AmeriCares is one of the organizations currently sending aid to countries affected by the recent West African Ebola outbreak.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are directly involved in what is being called the largest recorded Ebola outbreak in history. At least 700 people have already died, with 1,300 more infected. What’s worse, there is no vaccine for Ebola and the fatality rate is almost 60 percent.

AmeriCares has sent three shipments of emergency medical equipment to the affected countries. The delivery weighed 2,700 pounds and included tens of thousands of surgical masks and caps, gloves and various medical supplies.

Support like this is desperately needed in the affected countries, as they are lacking in medical equipment and supplies. Liberia and Sierra Leone have stated that the demand for intravenous fluids is rapidly outnumbering the supply.

Luckily, in conjunction with Baxter International Inc., AmeriCares is sending enough intravenous fluid for 3,000 patients. This should cover everyone affected in both countries for the near future.

AmeriCares is a U.S. based non-profit founded in 1982. Its main goal is to provide direct aid assistance during times of crisis. According to their website, they “deliver medicines, medical supplies and humanitarian aid to a trusted network of clinics, hospitals and health care providers around the world.”

Even though direct aid during times of crisis is its main form of support, it still tries to foster sustainable healthcare practices and to “increase capacity, improve quality and provide more access to health care in the world’s poorest countries.”

This means giving medicine and medical attention to people that would otherwise not be able to afford it. For example, in Romania a boy with hemophilia was given the treatment of Factor VIII so that he could live a normal life. Or in Cambodia, where a woman with breast cancer now has access to the medicine and equipment necessary for her treatment.

AmeriCares’ website has dozens of examples of the everyday lives it changes by simply allowing for access to medical facilities and supplies.

Besides the recent Ebola outbreak, AmeriCares is working on other current crises: it has delivered $19.7 million in relief aid to the Philippines in response to the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan. It states that its money is used for, “medicines and medical supplies, antibiotics, chronic care meds, bandages, nutritional supplements, blankets and other relief supplies for hospitals and health centers.” AmeriCares sends volunteers to help in the relief effort, as well.

AmeriCares is also active in the Syrian Conflict. In June 2013, it sent a response team to Jordan and Turkey to assess the situation of Syrian refugees. So far, $2 million have been sent in medical aid for the refugee camps.

The amount of medical aid sent will help around 67,000 people affected by this crisis.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: The Guardian, It’s Relevant, AmeriCares, Charity Navigator
Photo: New York CBS