On the path to promoting the third of the 17 Sustainable Development Goal to be achieved by 2030, which the U.N. defines as “ensuring healthy lifestyles and promoting well-being for all at all ages,” the World Health Organization released a joint report along with the World Bank and Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development. The report claims that the current poor state of healthcare systems worldwide is increasing the incidence of illness and proportion of health costs for all governments. Investing in healthcare hence becomes an important part of achieving the goal.

The Need for Investments in Global Health

Poverty and health are inextricably linked to each other; poverty can be a major hindrance to healthcare access, while poor health is also a major cause of poverty. Finances can act as a burden, as the poor cannot afford healthcare services or the food and medicines needed to lead a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, healthcare is but one of the many challenges developing nations are trying to overcome. As a result, governments can only allocate a limited amount of funds towards the sector, making healthcare a luxury for the well-off.

World Bank data shows that 100 million people fall into extreme poverty annually due to excessive health expenses. When people spend more on healthcare, they spend less on nutrition, education and other necessities. They might even be forced to sell valuables or borrow money at high interest rates to make up for their expenditure. Some families might choose not to spend money on healthcare at all and get family members to take care of a sick relative in lieu of working or going to school, robbing the country of potential human capital.

The lack of funding in the healthcare sector not only contributes to high costs for patients, but also to increased misdiagnoses, medication errors and unhygienic clinical practices. It is estimated that 10 percent of patients hospitalized in low and middle-income countries are at risk of contracting an infection that will worsen their condition during the treatment period. This susceptibility to other illnesses can further increase the burden of healthcare costs on a family.

The lack of adequately trained healthcare professionals can also lead to hospitals placing too many responsibilities on the shoulders of few doctors, or even on practitioners who might not be adequately equipped for the tasks. In seven low and middle-income African countries, it was found that accurate diagnoses were only made between one-third to three-quarters of the time and that internationally established clinical guidelines were adhered to in less than 45 percent of the cases. All these circumstances can drive poor families further into the poverty trap.

Read more at Borgen Magazine