In the Western world, we benefit from relatively easy access to healthcare facilities and expert practitioners to help us combat diseases like cancer. It’s all too easy to take this for granted. But as much as half of the world’s total population (some 3.5 billion people) sadly lack easy access to even the most basic healthcare institutions.
We need to find ways to equalize healthcare access for everyone on Earth, not just those nations that can afford it. Here are five ways in which we can improve global access to healthcare.
Start a pilot program
In many cases, the issues facing the healthcare system of a country are influenced by a complex combination of local factors. In many poorer countries, this often means that the best healthcare facilities are located in the larger urban centers, while those in impoverished rural areas are often many miles away from the nearest hospital.
However, even city hospitals in poorer countries may not be equipped or staffed well enough to sufficiently help the population. To identify specific factors that could boost local, national, and global access to healthcare, it’s important to use pilot programs to evaluate different healthcare situations and determine the best ways to improve them.
For example, healthcare-access advocate Shree Mukilan Pari launched his own pilot program to identify disparities in India’s healthcare system. This helped to improve both access and outcomes in rural communities.
Increase education and awareness
One of the best ways to improve global access to healthcare is to educate people about their health and potential health issues. This helps to raise awareness around common ailments and teaches a population to identify more serious problems.
This can be seen in various campaigns to teach men to check themselves regularly for signs of testicular cancer, or in drives to make women aware of the importance of breast cancer screenings.
Increasing healthcare education for a population can also help people to identify when someone else is having a serious health issue. Some countries have issued informative advertising that teaches people about which symptoms to spot when someone is having a stroke or other serious problems. This helps emergency services to quickly diagnose a problem and act accordingly.
Teaching people more about healthcare and its importance can also help encourage them to petition their governments for greater investment in healthcare, leading to better access and improved facilities.
Make use of technology
With our technological capacity expanding faster than ever before, this rapid pace of development can help improve global access to healthcare. This mainly comes in the form of more advanced medical equipment, which becomes less expensive for healthcare systems to obtain as the technology evolves. For example, MRI techniques were only developed in the last few decades.
The development of technology can also lead to the development of official health apps and other software, which puts people’s health more into their own hands. By improving the healthcare technology available to citizens, their access is also improved. This could be a library of common symptoms for health problems or reminders to book certain tests.
Reduce healthcare costs
Some countries are fortunate enough to be able to offer free healthcare to their citizens. However, up to 100 million people across the globe are mired in poverty because of extremely high healthcare costs in their countries. In some cases, people may avoid spending on much-needed healthcare because it is simply too expensive.
Private health companies will always be present, even in nations that offer free healthcare, but by making sure that even basic healthcare facilities are available for free to all people, global access to healthcare could be vastly improved.
Increase investment in healthcare
Many countries in poorer areas of the world simply do not have the funds to invest more into their healthcare systems. However, some countries can obtain this critical funding by reallocating funding from less essential areas, such as military spending, or by using financial resources more efficiently.
Governments and politicians should make healthcare investment one of their highest political priorities, especially in impoverished areas. Maximizing healthcare resources can help a population live longer and contribute more readily to the national workforce.
Investing in healthcare can take many different forms. Apprenticeships and scholarships can be set up to encourage people to work in healthcare, perhaps even with some form of tax breaks as well. Money can also be invested into medical research or hospital technology, or simply building more hospitals to reach rural areas. Any of these actions can drastically improve global access to healthcare.