Written by Nera Kuljanic and Sarah McCormack,
Good health and adequate healthcare systems contribute to the eradication of poverty and help achieve sustainable growth and development. Many countries in the developing world are unable to provide even basic health services for their citizens. On 19 April 2016 the EP’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel will host a workshop about investing in health within the developing world.
The event will see various experts from health organisations come together with MEPs to discuss this topic. The aim of the workshop is to examine the situation as it stands, and seek out options to improve the healthcare systems in the developing world. Carlos Coelho, MEP and STOA Panel member, will chair the event. MEPs Norbert Neuser and Linda McAvan from the EP’s DEVE Committee will also feature in the programme.
Why invest in health?
Today, those who live in low and middle income countries (LMICs) are more susceptible to diseases. This is a result of inadequate sanitation, lack of clean water, malnutrition and reduced access to medical care.
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Preventable infectious diseases are the main cause of child deaths in the developing world, within which 18,000 children die every day. Almost half of all deaths of children under the age of five is linked to malnutrition. Malnutrition can also lead to the stunting of growth (children being visibly too short for their age), which affects 30% of children in LMICs and is linked to negative effects later in life, such as poor health, reduced educational outcomes and productivity. Khassoum Diallo from the World Health Organisation (WHO) will explain the global burden from diseases in LMICs and their effects on society and the economy.
According to the WHO, 24% of the global disease burden is found in Africa, yet only 3% of the world’s health workers are based there. Despite the expected generation of 40 million jobs in the health sector over the next 15 years, these will be primarily in middle and high-income countries. Should there be no change, it could mean that worldwide one billion people will never see a health care worker. This frightening statistic highlights the health workforce crisis at play in the developing world, which Ibadat Dhillon from the WHO will examine at the workshop. Well-trained health workers are essential for healthy communities and to reduce inequalities among citizens.
Serious illness can lead to the impoverishment of families, as they are unable to work and are forced to sell their assets to pay for treatments. In the developing world those of ill health are at greater risk of finding themselves in poverty. Therefore, investment in health will have more than just a positive effect on the lives of ill individuals – the evidence suggests that it also leads to economic growth in the countries where it takes place. This topic will be addressed by Jeremy Lauer from the WHO. Marc Suhrcke from the Centre for Health Economics will look at the political economy of universal health coverage.
How can we help?
A response to tackle these issues will not only need an increase in investment, but will also require a commitment by governments and support from the international community. A panel including MEP Linda McAvan, DEVE Committee chair, Anne Nicolay from DG DEVCO, European Commission, Michael Makanga from the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, and Inke Mathauer from the WHO will examine how could the EU support the development and financing of health systems in the developing world.
Click here to register for the workshop and take part in the discussion.
If you were wondering what role could ICTs play in reducing inequalities and strengthening health systems in LMICs, check this study recently published by STOA.