The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “health” as the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. However, it is imperative to note that access to quality care and essential medicines is a strong determinant of how healthy individuals are. Explanations of lifestyle are dominant in Western views, but social factors are better predictors of health and are more effective, especially at the group or population level of analysis. The social determinants as a whole, can have varying effects on the health of vulnerable population groups such as those in remote and rural settings.
Populations in developing countries do not have the same access to health care and treatments that we take for granted. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 3 million children die each year in Africa from diseases, of which a significant amount can be prevented. These children suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases including measles, polio, meningitis, tuberculosis and pneumonia. This can be directly attributed to the lack of rural health service delivery in remote places across the continent. There is no infrastructure in place to address these limitations because there has not been investment to do so. There are safe and effective treatments to cure or prevent all of these ailments, but a combination of societal and geographical factors makes it hard to do so.
Additionally, the current research and development system has hindered the delivery of essential medicines to these populations. Societies are suffering from treatable illnesses because they simply cannot afford the price of expensive Western medication. The for-profit pharmaceutical industry has made it increasingly difficult to provide inexpensive care because of the high cost of essential medicines. The World Health Organization has a list of essential medicines that should be available to adults and children all over the world in sufficient amounts and at any time. However, this is not the current reality. Individuals in low socioeconomic settings in developing countries cannot access the lifesaving treatment that they need.
Above all, access to health care is an issue that affects different subsets of populations all over the world. Not only do we see this problem in developing countries, it can be found even in Northern Ontario and the aboriginal populations. To address this issue, the price of people’s lives need to be valued more than the price of pharmaceutical drugs. This is the essence of what UAEM is trying to achieve. It should be mandatory for individuals all over the world to be given the same level of access to essential medicines so that they can treat curable diseases. For further reading, check out the link below and get in contact with any UAEM member to find out what you can do to get involved.
Written by: Gagan Dhaliwal and Yallenni Imanvaluthy
Gagan and Yallenni are currently in their third year of undergraduate studies at Western University and serve as one of UAEM Western's Global Research and Development Leaders and Campaign Core Leaders respectively.