Dentistry, midwifery, nursing, medicine, optometry, audiology, pharmacy, psychology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and other health professions are all part of healthcare. It includes work done in providing primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care, as well as in public health.
Access to healthcare may vary across countries, communities, and individuals, largely influenced by social and economic conditions as well as health policies. Healthcare systems are organisations established to meet the health needs of targeted populations.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a well-functioning healthcare system requires a financing mechanism, a well-trained and adequately paid workforce, reliable information on which to base decisions and policies, and well maintained health facilities to deliver quality medicines and technologies.
An efficient healthcare system can contribute to a significant part of a country's economy, development and industrialisation.
Healthcare is conventionally regarded as an important determinant in promoting the general physical and mental health and well-being of people around the world. An example of this was the worldwide eradication of smallpox in 1980, declared by the WHO as the first disease in human history to be completely eliminated by deliberate health care interventions.
OWING to the continent’s huge burden of disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Africa loses more than $2.4 trillion from its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) value annually – equivalent to having lost 630 million years of life in 2015.
In a report titled A Heavy Burden: The Productivity Cost of Illness in Africa, WHO revealed that five countries accounted for almost half of the total years lost. These include the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and South Africa.
Infectious diseases which have been the largest drain on productivity for several years was overtaken by non-communicable diseases, accounting for 37 percent of the disease burden. While others are communicable and parasitic diseases; maternal, neonatal and nutrition-related conditions; and injuries.
The study comes as vulnerable health systems across the continent are facing challenges, with some examples including DRC where Ebola has killed some 621 people and cyclone-hit Mozambique, which is facing a cholera outbreak. In 2018, about one million new cases of cancer were recorded, with more than half (about 693,487 people) losing their lives that year, WHO cancer registry Globocan states.
The report also provides much-needed evidence and reinforces the call for more investments in the development of primary healthcare in Africa. According to the WHO, around 47 percent or $796 billion of lost productivity value could be prevented by 2030 if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to these health conditions are achieved, such as SDG 3 on good health and well-being, and SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation.
Health Economist in WHO’s Regional Office for Africa, Grace Kabaniha explained that the report illustrates how achievement of the critical health SDG targets, including universal health coverage, would contribute to poverty eradication efforts on a large scale, reduce disparities in lifespan, tackle social exclusion and promote political stability and economic development in the WHO African Region.
The findings of the WHO study on disease burden suggest that health systems strengthening should focus on rich as well as poor countries and on all ages as well as on the specific disease categories. To achieve the health-related SDG targets, countries must invest adequately in the development of resilient national and local health systems.