Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Universal health care

A recent article in the BMJ discusses the trials and tribulations associated with implementation of universal healthcare globally. However, it also notes the great progress that is being made (even in countries engrained in medical insurance culture such as the United States) and notes that an increase of 10% in governmental, prepaid funds for healthcare could save around 500,000 children under 5 in India and Nigeria alone (Save The Children report, 2013).

Low and middle income citizens in less developed nations often have to pay what is termed 'catastrophic healthcare spending' to pay for treatment, with billions of people worldwide resorting to selling assets, acquiring large debts or keeping children out of school in order to fund often inadequate healthcare. (Health Affairs, 2009) The authors suggest moving away from medical insurance models such as those throughout Africa, and towards the UK/France/Canada model where taxes pay for healthcare, ultimately redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor and encouraging access to healthcare on the basis of who needs it, rather than who can afford it.

This is particularly beneficial for diseases of a chronic nature, which require long-term and often multiple sessions of treatments to cure. The data that GAFFI is acquiring will increase public awareness to the costs that people worldwide have to pay for often fatal fungal diseases.

Importantly, medicine costs can seem low to people in Western countries; for example, people in Bangladesh pay just under $1 USD for a daily treatment of fluconazole, an essential antifungal drug. However, the proportion of people living on less than $2 USD a day in Bangladesh is around 75%, meaning that 75% of people would have to spend half their daily earnings on just one day's worth of treatment.

Such data collection is essential to put pressure of pharmaceutical companies and governments to reduce point-of-care costs of medication to the poor. More must be done to reduce access costs to medication but this can only be tackled through global collaboration between national governments, pharmaceutical companies and global health organisations.

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