Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WHO report calls for focus on basic health care

Good! The World Health Organization agrees with me.

I avoid medical care like the plague. It's dizzying, the amount of visits and tests you have to go thru just for one small thing. You see your doctor, then your referred to a specialist, then the specialist calls you back for tests, then again for more tests. Then finally your prescribed a drug that will give you unwanted side effects.

Well, the World Health Organization says that this is exactly the sort of thing that drives up costs in industrialized countries. Instead of going to the press release for this snippet, a Reuters article written by Laura MacInnis summed it up nicely.

Medical care in the rich world has also become dangerously fragmented, according to the report. It said front-line health workers ought to better assess patients' overall needs instead of referring them to costly specialists.

"This contributes to inefficiency, restricts access, and deprives patients of opportunities for comprehensive care," it said. "In far too many cases, people who are well-off and generally healthier have the best access to the best care, while the poor are left to fend for themselves."

Profit-driven care has also increased the use of unnecessary tests and procedures, prompted more frequent and longer hospital stays, driven up overall costs, and excluded those who cannot pay, the Geneva-based agency found.

Annual government spending on health worldwide varies from just $20 to more than $6,000 per person.

But lets get back on topic. The WHO also says that primary health care models can also help developing nations.

The WHO says with a focus being made on eliminating diseases like AIDS and malaria. The international community has forgotten to provide care for the poor with preventative medicine.

The difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest countries still exceeds 40 years, said the report, whose launch coincided with a global financial crisis that could freeze aid flows and squeeze government budgets for health care.

Some 58 million of the 136 million women who will have babies this year will lack medical help during and after their births, it said.

Increasingly specialised and technical medicine in wealthy nations has also excluded and impoverished millions of patients, exposing failures of "laissez-faire" governance in health, according to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

And despite huge foreign aid sums earmarked for programmes fighting AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other killer diseases in developing countries, the WHO said quality care remained scarce outside of those specific areas.

"Disproportionate investment in a limited number of disease programmes considered as global priorities in countries that are dependent on external support has diverted the limited energies of ministries of health away from their primary role," it said.

The full report can be downloaded and read by using this link.

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