The theme for this year’s World Health Day campaign was “building a fairer, healthier world,” after the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that healthcare access is far from equal. According to WHO, inequality is one of the factors that further increased the risk of contagion.
Health conditions are tied to how people are born and how they grow, live, work and age. There are people living under precarious conditions, with limited access to basic services such as clean water, air, food and health services, as well as poor housing, education, employment and gender equality conditions, which also hinder healthcare access. WHO states that all of these factors are preventable and encourages world leaders to work together with the affected groups and individuals to implement understanding solutions. The organization recommends data driven solutions to collect reliable health information by gender, age, income, education level, migratory status, disability (if any), geographic location and other characteristics relevant to the national context. It also suggests a stronger focus on tackling inequalities.
In Mexico, harsh inequality reflected in the country’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Access to innovative medications and affordability still remain a challenge in Mexico,” shared Roshel Jayasundera, Director of Global Consulting of Axios International, during an MBN interview. “The other challenge that we see is that the patient often gets lost within the referral system. Moreover, the Mexican health ecosystem is quite fragmented.” According to Jayasundera, this complex system has created a large gap between the public and private sector, which is often confusing for patients trying to refer their ailment to the proper instance. She stresses that affordability is the largest barrier to access treatments but once this is tackled, patients are empowered to take control of their health.
Javier Picó, Partner at LifeSciences Consultants, shared with MBN a similar opinion. However, he stated that society has not really understood health prices. “The cost, both in a national (macro) and personal (micro) sense, of taking care of, promoting and maintaining health is the cornerstone of any wellness state,” said Picó. “Many governments still hesitate to reimburse the cost of treatments for comorbidities that worsen the COVID-19 disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, high cholesterol and respiratory insufficiency.”
This understanding comes from education, which according to Sandra Sánchez-Oldenhage, President of Pharmadvice Consulting, is a fundamental block to build effective heath access. In an article posted on MBN, Sánchez-Oldenhage explained that nowadays, health is influenced by preventable conditions like obesity, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, smoking, stress, lack of education, inadequate housing and access to technology or transportation. “We must engage the public in changing lifestyle behaviors and living environments and assist them in achieving that goal, which in the end will lessen the need for costly processes, tests and medicines.”