Health Policies in Developing Countries

Health Policies in Developing Countries


Heath equality is described as the concept of healthcare differences that are typically unfair, avoidable and unjust. The terms health inequality and health equity are never synonymous despite the fact that they are normally used interchangeably. Some researchers have categorized equity as an ethical concept, based on the principles of distributive instead of procedural justice (Farah & World Bank, 2014). This means that both equality and inequality are paradigms that express moral commitment towards fulfilling social justice. In operating expressions pursuing equity as far as health is concerned means ability to eliminate all health inequalities, which are systematically associated with underlying social marginalization as well as disadvantages (Golladay & Liese, 2005). In most developing countries, many individuals suffer from health problems that are avoidable such as malnutrition, infectious diseases and complicated childbirths. The main reason why they suffer from all the problems is because poverty.

There is a wide difference in the health status between better-off individuals and poorer people. The differences are normally unfair and avoidable, indicating varying social economic constraints as well as opportunities (Gallagher & Conrad, 2011). This is opposed to personal or individual choices to either be healthy or not. Government agencies have tried to set up programs aimed at improving the healthcare of poor people, however most programs have been unsuccessful. Most recent studies shed light on health conditions of developing countries and how poor people are faring, indicating geographical areas where there are pervasive and persistent health inequalities (Rachel & McKee, 2014). The studies have also focused on variety of reforms employed in reducing such health inequalities such as organized and financed health care, accessible and quality healthcare as well as broad community development programs. The paper will shed light on several approaches that most developing countries have embraced in mitigating health inequality.

Literature Review

International organizations and governments have always recognized the need for improving the health conditions of the poor people. For instance, the World Health Organizations developed a policy “Health for All” aimed to be achieved by year 2000, in 1970s (Farah & World Bank, 2014). However, twenty-five years later that goal has never been achieved. It is estimated that there are about 1billion people who are living in less than $1 in a day. Still, modern medicines, treatments and health services seem to be out of reach to many people. Among many countries, there are large disparities in health that are persisting. Such disparities are mainly attributed to differences in health research, spending in healthcare, access to technology and information as well as local capacity (Eshag, 2013).

In many developing states, health spending is estimated to be about $11 per every individual in year, as opposed to the recommended $30-40 by the World Health Organization that is sufficient to cover every essential health care. Health spending in highly developed countries is estimated to be $1,900 per individual in a year (Zilberman, 2012). Consequently, poor people living in developing poor countries have fewer resources necessary to accessing good quality and medical technology. Health inequalities within countries have been found to be pervasive. For instance, the poor living in developed countries such as Europe and United States typically die younger than the rich people do (Zilberman, 2012). Health problems such as infectious or parasitic diseases, childbirth complications, and nutritious deficiencies are mainly concentrated among the poor people living in poor countries.

Potential Solution

Little research exists as well as developing spending on all diseases that mainly affect the poorest people worldwide. Most extensive research studies focusing on health inequalities in poor developing countries normally utilizes data form health surveys as well as demographic data conducted in African countries (Taylor & Institute of Medicine, 2016). Most of the surveys conducted in the countries cover health and population issues as well as measure social-economic status through inquiries made on household services and assets. Respondents are typically asked questions regarding possessions of items such as televisions, refrigerator or even motor vehicles (Semba & Bloem, 2001). Researchers in the surveys had to construct a household wealth index from the acquired data dividing it with the total population count in each country. The five groups of quintiles, equal size are based on the relative standing of individuals on wealth index of a specific country.


Many studies indicate that the poorest quintiles are more likely to suffer and fare worse than the wealthiest quintiles on a wide range of health outcomes. This also includes nutritional status as well as childhood mortality rates (Andersen, Cheng, Frandsen, Kuyvenhoven & Braun, 2009). A poor child coming from a poor country is twice as likely to die before the age of five as compared to a rich child from a wealthy country. The disparity present in this observation is due to maternal nutrition, where, women from poor countries suffer high risks of malnutrition relative to their counterparts (Kuyven, Hoven & Braun, 2009). There is a statistically significant association and relationship between child health and economic status. In fact, some studies have confirmed childhood health problems such as underweight and stunting in 18 countries of the total 20 developing countries where research was conducted (Kuyven et al., 2009).

Three Possible Programmes or Policies that could mitigate the Problem

  1. Health exemption policy

At low levels of development process, granting exemptions to particular groups and principally the poor is seen as the most achievable short-term policy goal of addressing health crisis in developing countries (Shadlen, Guenif, Guzman & Lalitha, 2013). This health policy is aimed at targeting the poor population since they are at higher risk of averting healthcare services due to price constraints. In addition, this policy calls for exempted intervention programs that carry external beliefs such as immunization in combating infectious diseases. Principally, this health policy allows promotion of the concentration of public expenditure subsidy to those who have the medical and financial need in the society (Shadlen et al., 2013). In this respect, ill health and poverty are more likely to coincide instead of dissipating among the larger population. However, the main encumbrance lies in accurately identifying the poor as well as the providing the providers with appropriate incentives (Eshag, 2013).

  1. Cash reward health policy

There is a need of developing health policies that uses arises cash rewards in the process of raising health awareness (Fathelrahman & Weitheimer, 2016). Subsidies and insurance have formerly contributed to a weakened financial deterrent as far as health care use is concerned. The potency of the strategy associated with this health care policy depends on the importance of price in the process of determining healthcare utilization (Eshag, 2013). Some studies have established that poor cultural, education and knowledge are responsible for the low utilization and therefore, eliminating price barriers is more likely to have little or no impact on use. However, promoting economic incentives is still a potent way of eliminating non-economic barriers as far as utilization is concerned (National Research Council, Lloyd, National Research Council & National Research Council, 2005).

The policy requires the use of financial rewards in the process of reducing modifications in healthcare seeking behavior. Some countries such as Latin America have successfully applied the policy that provides households with finances conditioned on participation on all health programs that can promote and develop human capital (Fathelrahman & Weitheimer, 2016). Consequently, the approach was practical in increased participation on preventive interventions such as child growth monitoring, immunization as well as antenatal care.

  1. Universal health coverage policy (Chosen policy)

This is my personal chosen health policy program because economic development requires health policies that call for universal coverage. Increasing the ineffectiveness of healthcare is typically achieved by financing healthcare by out-of-pocket mode of payment. This mode of payment is not ideal as it strengthens the constraining effects of price and current income on utilization (Taylor & Institute of Medicine, 2016). Besides, lack of borrowing opportunities contributes to tightening such constraints.

Program Evaluation

Moreover, pre-payment mechanisms that pool risks between credit schemes and individuals normally allow risks to be smoothened eventually. Such mechanisms are responsible in the process of weakening household budget barriers for demand on healthcare (Eshag, 2013). Consequently, developing countries need to do away with all policies that call for out-of-pocket modes of payment.

World Health Organization as well as Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has proposed policies that are more likely to promote equitable financing by way of increased pre-payment coupled by risk pooling. This strategy is a major priority in the process of developing pro-poor health system that is able to deliver accessible and quality healthcare services to the poor people (Taylor & Institute of Medicine, 2016). However, there is a great need of eliminating existing barriers to this realization such as labor market and legal tax institutions in most developing countries that are inconsistent with the system of universal pre-payment policies or mechanisms. Additionally, there is limited employment based on social insurance in the formal sector (Rechel & McKee, 2014). This is insufficient healthcare plan that excludes many poor or less well off individuals. Besides, developing countries need to review their tax system for this health policy to be effective. This is mainly because tax finance is made limited due to the fact that tax base is narrow.

However, this policy does not call for extending health insurance cover directly to the poor but by developing a cover based on certain distinctiveness such as age, which is interrelated to poverty (Gallagher & Conrad, 2011). Studies have indicated that this strategy is administratively easier to apply or implement as compared to the main test. In most developing countries, poor health is mainly concentrated on the poor children where they account for 50% of total population death. Since health disparity is observed among the young population, there is a need of developing an age-targeted health policy that targets the poor category (Pinstup, Cheng & Frandsen, 2012). The implementation of this health policy has resulted to increased utilization and reduced disparity on rich-poor among many school-going children in the developing countries.

International initiatives have been at the forefront in dramatically combating diseases in African countries in the recent past. For example, research has indicated that in 1996, global funding on HIV/AIDS had increased by about $4.7billion by 2003. (National, 2005) The United States and other developed countries have set aside a Reserve Plan Program for HIV/AIDS relief alone. Additionally, the program was able to fund $15 billion by 2010 for the purposes of combating the epidemic (National, 2005). In essence, global health initiatives have proved to be valuable in improving health conditions of poor people living in poor developing countries. This is because such an initiatives help support, improve health infrastructure for care, deterrence as well as treatment. Nevertheless, the process needs collaborative efforts by the capabilities of developing countries in improving health conditions of their people.


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