Health: Millions of people at risk of poverty


The World Health Organization published the "World Health Report 2010" in Berlin on Monday. This shows that around 100 million people fall into poverty each year due to the treatment costs of illness, which is usually caused by a lack of health insurance.

At the launch of the 2010 World Health Report, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan called on all states to make health care more equitable and effective. Because it is not only in the poorer countries that millions of people suffer "financial disasters" annually due to a lack of health insurance. In the industrialized countries, too, many people are overwhelmed by health costs, as the World Health Report reveals. Particularly in countries such as the USA or some southern and eastern European countries, where most people have to pay the treatment costs directly, a particularly large number of people end up in the poverty trap due to illness, according to the WHO. According to the "World Health Report 2010", around 150 million people worldwide experience "financial disasters" because they lack the health insurance to cover the costs of treatment in the event of illness, and around 100 million slide permanently into poverty.

But not only the lack of health insurance is a problem, according to the "World Health Report 2010". The generally rising costs in the healthcare system also pose considerable challenges for many nations. As the population of many countries ages massively, more and more people suffer from chronic diseases and new, extensive treatments drive up costs, health expenditure in most countries has increased enormously over the past few decades, the WHO said. The lack of efficiency of the health systems also played a significant role in the cost explosion, as the Director General of the WHO emphasized.

According to the “World Health Report 2010”, around $ 300 billion is wasted worldwide in inefficiency in the hospital sector alone. The evaluation of around 300 studies as part of the "World Health Report 2010" showed that the hospitals could achieve an average of 15 percent more with the same effort, explained Margaret Chan. Overall, according to the World Health Report, there are savings opportunities in the healthcare system of 20 to 40 percent worldwide. According to the WHO, there is still considerable potential for savings in the area of ​​pharmaceuticals. Because in the industrialized countries around five percent of health expenditures could be saved by the proper use and improved quality control of medicines, according to the director general of the WHO. The WHO also identified false incentives as the cause of the lack of efficiency in many national health systems, which are set, for example, by the individual remuneration of certain treatment methods. This treatment would be prescribed particularly often due to the separate billing. The WHO recommends working with flat-rate remuneration, since this would shift the focus of medical care to prevention.

As part of the presentation of the “World Health Report 2010”, WHO also asked poor countries to increase investment in their health system. With the report "Financing health systems - The path to universal social security in the event of illness", WHO also shows the states how they can finance these additional investments in their health systems. For example, the WHO recommends that a foreign exchange transaction tax be levied or that alcohol and tobacco taxes be increased in order to enable poor countries to pay for additional healthcare. At the same time, however, the WHO also warned the donor countries to keep their financial commitments made under the “Millennium Development Goals” or to finally implement them. Because by increasing the funds to the promised 0.7 percent of the gross domestic product of the donor countries, around three million lives could be saved in the recipient countries by 2015, emphasized the Director General of the WHO.

The Federal Minister of Health Philipp Rösler (FDP) also commented on the WHO report presented and drew the conclusion from the figures presented that there is “no patent solution” when building a health system and that “each country (…) goes its own way and is historical , take cultural and socio-economic conditions into account ”. With regard to the commitment to the “Millennium Development Goals”, Development Minister Dirk Niebel (FDP) stated that health will remain one of the key sectors of German development policy in the future, with Germany's particular focus on maternal and child health. The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) and other interest groups, on the other hand, rated the "World Health Report 2010" as a rejection of the privatization of the health care system, since the WHO clearly calls for the expansion of state health care. The report contradicts the intentions of the Federal Minister of Health Philipp Rösler (FDP).

Medico international e.V. also took the World Health Report as an occasion for criticism of the federal government's policies. The recently adopted health care reform undermines the level of equal access achieved for everyone here instead of securing it further, medico international emphasized. So it is "good that the report clearly gives preference to health systems financed by solidarity," explained medico international's health coordinator, Andreas Wulf, and added: "International support for poorer countries that cannot meet the health needs of their populations on their own, however, it has to increase and at the same time be more predictable and long-term. ” Therefore, medico calls for the creation of a "Global Fund for Health" to support the developing countries and to make mutual aid legally binding. (fp)

Also read:
WHO: Lack of health insurance makes you poor

Photo credit: Maren Beßler / pixelio.de

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