Strategies for Improving Health in Developing Countries

These obviously stem from people’s theories about what the ‘causes’ of poor health are.

Long term economic growth

The first and probably most important point is that there is a broad, if not perfect, correlation between a country’s per capita income and its levels of health, as measured by life expectancy, infant mortality, overall death rates, and incidents of particular diseases. As countries get wealthier, they get healthier – thus increasing economic growth appears to be the best long term strategy for improving health. Theories of how to promote economic growth differs with different theories.

No one demonstrates the relationship between income and life expectancy better than Hans Rosling:

Biomedical Intervention

Currently two of the main global projects are the mass vaccination programme to eradicated polio and the mass distribution of free mosquito nets to populations in Malarial regions.

Improving water sources and sanitation

This is widely seen as one of the most effective means of reducing deaths from diarrheal diseases and involves such things as drilling bore holes to reach underground water sources in rural areas, or treating water in urban areas, as is done in the developed world. Improving sanitation might mean building sewage systems and installing flush toilets. In urban settings, both of these would involve massive infrastructural projects to install. 

Better diets

Many people in the world still effectively die of malnutrition – which weakens the body’s resistance to infectious diseases. Young children are especially vulnerable.

Improving women’s rights and maternal health

The importance of which is illustrated in the ‘Worst Place to a Midwife – Liberia’

Political solutions

Ending Corruption and Conflict – Obviously both of these are a drain on a country’s resources – corruption might mean money does not get effectively spent on developing health services while overt conflict can mean

Providing cheaper drugs

It is Western Pharmaceutical companies which manufacture anti AIDs drugs, and antibiotics, which they then patent and sell for a profit. Eventually other companies make cheaper copies of these drugs, but frequently The World Trade Organisation does not allow the cheap copies to be sold until the original patent has run out – this can be several years. The WTO could put the right to life before the right to Corporate Profit.

Controlling Corporations

Dependency Theorists point out that if Corporations are allowed to make workers work for 12 hours a day in dangerous, toxic conditions, this will have a long term detrimental effect on the health and life expectancy of workers.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

The education topic is part of the Global Development option, usually taught in the second year of the course. For more posts about Global Development, please click here.

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