Health in Hard Places

When it comes to health care, all stakeholders – patients, service providers, pharmaceutical companies, and governments – know that we need new and better models. This is especially true especially true pf the health systems of emerging economies, which often confront tighter resource constraints than developed countries face.

BASEL – When it comes to health care, all stakeholders – patients, service providers, pharmaceutical companies, and governments – know that something needs to change. For decades, health-care spending has increased faster than economic growth by an average of two percentage points in OECD countries. And, as the population ages and the incidence of chronic disease rises, the problem will only get worse if it is not addressed. We need new and better models – and effective strategies to adopt them.

This is especially true in developing countries’ health-care systems, which often confront tighter resource constraints than health care in developed countries. Today, the world’s largest socioeconomic group, often referred to as the “bottom of the pyramid,” comprises three billion people who live on less than $2.50 per day. Yet their demand for health care is significant.

In low-income countries, nine million people, mostly children, die each year from infectious diseases, including malaria, diarrhea, and AIDS. This is unacceptable, especially given the availability of treatments for these diseases. I believe, however, that traditional corporate-responsibility efforts, such as donating medicines to patients who cannot afford health care, are no longer enough. They do not address the root cause of the problem, which is much deeper than a pricing issue.

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