Poor public health funding: a colossal risk to health inequalities


(Olga Kononenko, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Kayode Ayomide Timilehin, a 20-year-old medical student from The Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

A perfect state of health, undoubtedly is a matter of utmost importance to us as humans. Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (1946 Constitution). As important as it is, it is however a part of fundamental human rights. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR Article 25) states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…” The variance of the health status of the populace from one group to another is therefore an anomaly which needs to be addressed.

Health inequalities are the differences in the health status or in the distribution of health determinants between different population groups (WHO 2013). This disparity is unjust, yet avoidable. Its various causes is classified under two broad causes thus: health privatization and poor investment in public health.

Privatization of health is the act by which the private sector takes the responsibility of providing health care for the populace. Health privatization which is a major cause of health inequalities waxes stronger due to the breach in the quality of the healthcare given by the government. It is majorly profit oriented and works on personalized healthcare services thereby improving its quality.

One of the setbacks encountered by the privatization of health is the inability to provide affordable healthcare services. The wide range of services provided by the private health sector is mostly too expensive for the general public leading to health inequalities.

Similarly, cases of unhealthy competition and solely profit orientation is also a major deterrent to the effectiveness of the private health sector in providing equal health.

Public health is defined as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of the society.” (Acheson 1988). This can only be achieved through the organized efforts of the society. The society’s efforts can then be fulfilled with the targeted investments of the government in public health.

It needs to be known that the best form of maintaining the health of the populace in a cost-effective way is through prevention. Cost-saving prevention requires investments from the government, denial of which is a major setback leading to health inequalities. Health insurance funding and subventions required to cover the costs of health outreaches, campaigns and seminars not being disbursed or facing cut-downs lessen its effectiveness in combating health inequalities.

Subsidized healthcare services are not readily available owing to the poor investment by the government. This causes the private health sector to increase in population thereby reducing the quality of healthcare services and increasing health inequalities.

The advent of health privatization has proferred a lot value to the healthcare industry. It therefore needs not to be censured due to its downside of health inequalities. However, poor investment in public health is a major risk factor to health inequalities which needs prompt attention. A progressive cascade in the turnaround of the investment of the government in public health is key to overcoming health inequalities.

About the author

Kayode Ayomide Timilehin is a 20-year-old medical student from The Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is currently a 3rd year medical student at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), belongs to the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA) where he is a member of the Standing Committee on Public Health (SCOPH) at LAUTECH. He is also part of other student committees such as Nigerian Medical Students' Association (NiMSA) and Ladoke Akintola University Medical
Students Association (LAUMSA). Some of his interests are volunteering, creative writing and blogging. With his writings, he wants to keep the public informed about their health.

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