Expanding Healthcare in Third World Countries
As an aspiring physician, I think a lot about curing people that are sick or in pain and being able to help those in need. However, I typically only think about these things in a first world situation. Since I have lived my whole life in the continental United States, I have become accustomed to health care always being there for me. However, on a recent trip to Cambodia, I visited a local village where I was shocked by the poverty people lived in. Of course, I have read history textbooks and been lectured to about the Khmer Rouge, and learned why the majority of the population lives in such conditions, but I felt very removed from situation until I actually visited. Seeing people buying food from local markets that were housed outside, on a dirt surface, in 100 degree conditions and without proper sanitation was horrifying to me. These villagers could barely afford to feed their families with incredibly unsanitary food- how on earth could they afford health care? I quickly reexamined my original close-minded assumption that health care is a given: in many places, treatment or prevention for chronic diseases, such as diabetes, HIV, and obesity, is not readily available.
Lack of access to healthcare is due to a variety of factors, one of them being financial instability. In a study done in 2015 published by Asia Public Health Journal finds that women who are a socioeconomic disadvantage have a much higher chance of giving birth at home, with an unskilled birth attendant. These women and their children have a higher chance of death during birth. Access to healthcare is impossible, should those seeking it be unable to pay for the services needed. Some NGOs are trying to expand the access to health care in third world countries like Cambodia, but are then running into the barrier of lack of education.
Since being at a disadvantage socioeconomically has been linked by studies with not having an education, many of those that need help are not aware of the debilitating effects of not seeking health care. A study done in 2007 by researchers at the World Health Organization found that many people with chronic diseases think they are fine and therefore do not seek help until they have severe symptoms, at which point the disease is often too late to treat. This is not due to discrediting the severity of the disease but rather the lack of information that the patient has about the disease they carry.
Health care in third world countries needs to be expanded and made more accessible before any major advancements can happen. Once the people of a country are healthy, they can then move forward economically and socially for a better future.