Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The number of people dying from curable illnesses is "disturbing"‚ a new global study has found. While significant gains have been made in the past 25 years‚ the study found "massive inequity of access and quality healthcare".

The study is authored by Dr Christopher Murray‚ director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. It was published on Friday in the international medical journal‚ The Lancet.

The study says SA’s healthcare system ranks high in addressing common vaccine-preventable diseases‚ with a score of 98 out of 100 in addressing diphtheria and 95 for tetanus. However‚ in other categories the nation has much lower scores‚ such as tuberculosis (TB) and lower respiratory infections, which both score 24.

Researchers used data from a Healthcare Access and Quality Index‚ which collects information on deaths from 32 causes that could be avoided by timely and effective medical treatment. The study is the first effort to assess services in 195 countries.

"What we have found about healthcare access and quality is disturbing‚" said Murray. "Having a strong economy does not guarantee good healthcare. Having great medical technology doesn’t either. We know this because people are not getting the care that should be expected for diseases with established treatments."

He cited Norway and Australia as examples. Each scored 90 overall‚ among the highest scores globally‚ but Norway scored only 65 in treating testicular cancer‚ while Australia scored only 52 for treating non-melanoma skin cancer.

"In the majority of cases‚ both of these cancers can be treated effectively‚" Murray said. "Shouldn’t it cause serious concern that people are dying of these causes in countries that have the resources to address them?"

The data showed that nations in sub-Saharan Africa‚ Asia and the Pacific‚ while showing sizable gains since 1990‚ experienced the lowest rankings.

It is not all doom and gloom‚ however. The paper does offer some signs of improvement in access and quality.

Countries such as Turkey‚ Jordan‚ South Korea‚ the Maldives‚ Niger‚ Jordan and several western European nations‚ including Switzerland‚ Spain and France‚ have, since 1990, achieved progress that meets or surpasses levels reached by other nations of similar development.

The report will be updated annually with the aim of using the results to better understand gaps and opportunities for improving health access around the world. Some of the causes of death identified among the 32 causes are TB‚ lower-and upper-respiratory infections‚ tetanus‚ measles‚ a number of common cancers‚ as well as appendicitis and the adverse effects of medical treatment.

The top-ranked nation was Andorra‚ with an overall score of 95. Its lowest treatment score was for Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 70. The lowest-ranked nation was the Central African Republic at 29. Its highest treatment score was for diphtheria at 65.

TMG Digital

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