Despite the many impressive advances in public health we hear about on a regular basis, access to high-quality health care remains a pressing global issue.
In developing countries, where traditional barriers to quality health care are exacerbated by inadequate medical infrastructure and a shortage of providers, millions of people suffer and die from conditions for which effective interventions exist simply because of a lack of access to needed care and resources.
According to a World Health Organization/World Bank Group report, at least 400 million people globally do not have access to one or more essential health services, while six percent of people in low- and middle-income countries are pushed further into poverty by health-care-related spending. A recent study published in the medical science journal, The Lancet, estimates that 15.6 million preventable deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries every year, including 8.6 million that probably could have been prevented through high-quality health care. Of those 8.6 million deaths, some 5 million involved patients who received poor health care.
Statistics like these underscore the fact that access to quality health care is an urgent problem — one that demands a coordinated, multi-faceted response. Under-resourced health systems in developing countries invariably mean a shortage of trained health care workers, limited inventories of medical supplies and medications, and inadequate public health surveillance systems. To address these issues, efforts must be made not only to increase access to care on the ground, but to enhance existing medical infrastructure.
Fortunately, effective strategies and solutions have been created and implemented to help close gaps in health care delivery. Through their program expertise and targeted grants, philanthropic organizations can further leverage the knowledge and existing relationships of organizations on the ground to maximize impact and create healthier futures for millions of people.