Why do Developing Countries have so many Health Problems?

Health and Development is one of the aspects of development students taking the global development option for A-level sociology have to study…

There are a number of fairly obvious explanations as to why low income countries face poor health conditions.  

Lack of an improved water source

Hundreds of millions of people in sub Saharan Africa and Southern Asia especially, mostly living in rural areas, rely on water from local streams and rivers, which is often contaminated with disease spreading parasites, which are ingested and then cause diarrhoea – resulting in hundreds of thousands of death each year from the resulting malnutrition and dehydration.

Poor Sanitation

This is responsible for the spread of diarrhoeal diseases – living in close proximity to open sewers full of human and animal waste products exposes one to a host of disease pathogens

Malnutrition

Nearly a billion people in the world are malnourished – this is one of the leading causes of child mortality.

Underdeveloped public health services

In the developed world there is 1 doctor for every 520 people, in the developing world there is one doctor for every 15 000 people. In rural areas, hospitals are spread so far apart that pregnant women often find it a practical impossibility to get to one for child birth.

War and Conflict

Some countries, most notably Somalia and Afghanistan, are currently in conflict – obviously this increases the likelihood of people getting injured and puts additional strain on a countries economic and health care resources.

Poverty

All of the above are ultimately linked to underlying poverty – as emphasised by Hans Rosling in his various videos.

Patriarchy and Traditional values

  • Modernisation Theorists emphasise the internal cultural values of developing countries that can act as barriers to improving life expectancy etc.
  • Patriarchal traditions may prevent money being spent on training midwives and providing maternity resources which could help reduce deaths in pregnancy 
  • Patriarchy and religious values may prevent contraception use – which is linked to the spread of HIV in Sub Saharan Africa

Environmental Factors

  • Jeffrey Sachs also points out that Environmental Factors also play a role – simply put, Mosquitos, which spread Malaria, responsible for 5% of deaths in low income countries, are especially partial to the conditions in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

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