Health Care Gap Between Rich, Poor Countries Persists; More Should Be Spent on Basic Health Care, WHO Report Says
An "ever-widening" gap between the quality of health care in the world's richest and poorest countries is happening in part because technological advances made by the pharmaceutical industry need to be applied more to delivery of care, according to a World Health Organization report released in Mexico City on Wednesday, the AP/Escondido North County Times reports. The report, titled "World Report on Knowledge for Better Health," says that approximately 10% of the $70 billion spent annually on health research is used to treat 90% of the world's diseases, and developing nations account for just 3% of public-sector spending on health research worldwide (Weissert, AP/Escondido North County Times, 11/10). "Half of the world's deaths could be prevented with simple and cost-effective interventions, but not enough is known about how to make these more widely available to the people who need them," the report says. In addition, "inadequate" health systems in developing countries are a "constraint" on global programs to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the New York Times reports. "Countries with few resources struggle with creaking infrastructure, inadequate financing, migrating doctors and nurses and lack of basic information on health indicators," the report says (Malkin, New York Times, 11/11).
Dr. Tikki Pang, WHO director for research policy and cooperation and the report's lead author, said that more resources need to be directed toward improving the delivery of health care in developing countries, according to VOA News. "You know, we can sequence the human genome, and yet we still have huge problems in poor countries with malaria, with tuberculosis, with HIV/AIDS, with childhood infections, with the whole range of things," Pang said (Berman, VOA News, 11/10). The report recommends that governments worldwide spend 2% of their national health budgets to "better analyzing health systems," according to the AP/Times (AP/Escondido North County Times, 11/10). Pang coordinated a team of 12 health researchers in both developed and developing countries over 18 months to produce the report (WHO release, 11/10).
A second report released on Wednesday by the not-for-profit group Global Forum for Health Research found that while spending on health research rose from $84.9 billion in 1998 to $105.9 billion in 2001, there has been "little headway" in financing research into infectious diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries. According to the study, 48% of medical research spending is by pharmaceutical companies, 44% comes from the public sector and private foundations and universities account for 8% (New York Times, 11/11).