Overcoming Barriers to Healthcare Access

The Impact of Poor-Quality Healthcare on Access, Health Outcomes, and Societal Well-being

Access to quality healthcare is a fundamental right that should be available to all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographic location. Unfortunately, suspicions about the quality and effectiveness of government health services, coupled with various systemic challenges, hinder access to proper care. In this article, we will explore the consequences of poor-quality healthcare, highlighting the need for improvement in healthcare systems worldwide. By examining the impact on health outcomes, accessibility, and societal well-being, we can better understand the importance of addressing these critical issues.

The Toll of Poor-Quality Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Research conducted by the Health and Medicine Division of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine indicates that between 5.7 million and 8.4 million deaths occur annually in low- and middle-income countries due to poor-quality care. Shockingly, this represents approximately 10-15 percent of total deaths in these regions.[1] The blame for this crisis primarily lies with poorly managed and under-resourced healthcare systems.

Studies have found alarming deficiencies in basic facilities, such as water, sanitation, and sterilization equipment. In many poorer nations, approximately one-third of health facilities lack access to water and soap for hand-washing, while three-quarters lack proper sterilization equipment. These shortcomings severely compromise the delivery of quality care, resulting in adverse health outcomes for individuals and communities.

The Link Between Inadequate Infrastructure and Infections

Merely increasing the number of births in health facilities does not guarantee a reduction in infant mortality rates.[2] The Lancet highlights the critical role of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in healthcare facilities. Inadequate access to WASH facilities can contribute to health-care-associated infections, undermining efforts to improve health outcomes. Without proper infrastructure and resources, health facilities become sources of infection, endangering patients and healthcare workers alike.

The Social and National Impact of Poor-Quality Healthcare

The human cost of unnecessary deaths due to poor-quality healthcare is immeasurable. The Lancet’s report on High-Quality Health Systems in the Sustainable Development Goals Era underscores the magnitude of the crisis, especially when governments strive to expand health insurance and universal health coverage.[3] If the quality of services does not save lives, the value of expanding insurance and achieving universal access becomes questionable.

Beyond the personal toll, poor-quality healthcare also has significant economic repercussions. Unnecessary deaths due to inadequate care result in substantial productivity losses, estimated to amount to around $1.5 trillion annually. This economic burden hinders social and national development, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality.

Barriers to Accessing Affordable Treatment

In many regions, suspicions surrounding the quality of care hinder individuals from seeking professional help.[4] For example, in Pakistan’s Punjab region, a health care census revealed over 70,000 “totally unqualified” medical practitioners, eroding trust in the healthcare system.[5] Overcoming these trust issues and ensuring transparent and accountable healthcare services is crucial to improving access and health outcomes.

Affordability remains a significant barrier to accessing necessary treatments. Many individuals struggle to afford recommended medications and therapies due to high prices and limited availability. The Access to Medicine Foundation estimates that approximately two billion people are unable to obtain the medicines they need.[6] By way of example, one elderly South Asian woman who was given six weeks’ vitamins at a free GFA medical clinic told the team that she would never be able to afford to purchase that much supplementary help in her lifetime.[7] Addressing these financial barriers is essential to ensure equitable access to quality healthcare for all.

Impact on Development Aid and Rising Disease Rates

A contributing factor to limited access to medicines is the decline in development aid for health, particularly affecting low-income countries. As donor governments reduce their giving, the availability of essential healthcare support decreases, making it even more challenging for vulnerable populations to access life-saving treatments and interventions.

Simultaneously, the rate of deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has been steadily increasing. The Lancet reports a nearly 23 percent rise in NCD-related deaths since 2007. These statistics highlight the urgent need for sustained support and improved healthcare systems that can effectively address the growing burden of NCDs.

The provision of quality healthcare remains a global challenge that requires our immediate attention. The consequences of poor-quality care and limited accessibility are significant, impacting individuals, communities, and societies at large. To address these pressing issues, it is imperative for governments, healthcare organizations, and communities to collaborate in improving healthcare systems. We must ensure effective management, adequate infrastructure, trust-building measures, affordability, and sustained development aid. However, our efforts cannot succeed without your support.

Through supporting GFA World’s Medical Ministry and sponsoring medical camps, you can be a catalyst for lasting change in vulnerable communities. Together, we can break the cycle of poverty and poor health, providing comprehensive checkups, treatments, medications, and health education to those who need it most. Let’s stand together in the fight against preventable diseases and ensure that every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, fulfilling life.

Learn more about overcoming barriers to healthcare access

[1] Crossing the Global Quality Chasm: Improving Health Care Worldwide. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2018/crossing-global-quality-chasm-improving-health-care-worldwide.aspx. August 28, 2018.
[2] Ghebreyesus, Tedros Adhanom. How could health care be anything other than high quality? The Lancet. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(18)30394-2/fulltext. September 5, 2018.
[3] High-quality health systems in the Sustainable Development Goals era: time for a revolution. The Lancet. https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/quality-health-systems?utm_campaign=tlghhqss18&utm_content=76696976&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter. September 5, 2018.
[4] Kruk, Margaret E.; Gage, Anna D.; Joseph, Naima T.; García-Saisó, Sebastián; Salomon, Joshua A. Mortality due to low-quality health systems in the universal health coverage era: a systematic analysis of amenable deaths in 137 countries. The Lancet. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31668-4/fulltext. September 5, 2018.
[5] Why Pakistan has so many quacks. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/03/28/why-pakistan-has-so-many-quacks. March 28, 2019.
[6] Access to Medicine Index: the context. Access to Medicine Foundation. https://accesstomedicinefoundation.org/access-to-medicine-index/about-the-index/the-context. Accessed November 22, 2019.
[7] Medical camps—Love in Action. Gospel For Asia. https://gospelforasia-reports.org/2017/08/6176/. August 28, 2017.