Two students just got hepatitis vaccination Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

A Formula for Health Equity

What could an economically advanced country like the United States possibly learn from the health-care success of a tiny, impoverished African country like Rwanda? Two things: how to broaden access and improve health outcomes while sharply reducing the cost of care.

KIGALI – Imagine a country where some 90% of the population is covered by health insurance, more than 90% of those with HIV are on a consistent drug regime, and 93% of children are vaccinated against common communicable diseases including HPV. Where would you guess this enchanted land of medical equity is? Scandinavia? Costa Rica? Narnia?

Try Africa – Rwanda, to be precise.

In my native country, health care is a right guaranteed for all, not a privilege reserved for the rich and powerful. Rwanda remains poor, but, over the past 15 years, its health care advances have gained global attention, for good reason. In 2000, life expectancy at birth was just 48 years; today, it’s 67. International aid has helped, but our achievements have come primarily from other, non-financial innovations.

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