According to a new report, life-saving health care in impoverished countries could cost less than $5.
These funds would expand basic health services in 74 low-income countries, giving millions of children and their mothers access to essentials like birth control, nutritional supplements, and medication for serious illnesses like pneumonia and malaria. The improvements would cost only $4.70 per person.
These 74 countries make up more than 95% of mother and child deaths every year. In 2015, almost 6 million children under the age of five died, as well as more than 300,000 women from pregnancy-related causes.
The expansion of health care like those mentioned could prevent the deaths of 1.5 million newborn babies, 1.5 million children, and 149,000 mothers. That means that deaths in these three groups would be reduced by half, reports Robert Preidt of US News and World Report Health.
Increasing the availability of family planning services would also prevent nearly 28 million unwanted pregnancies and prevent 564,000 stillbirths per year.
The services could reach almost everyone who needs them in low-income nations for $6.2 billion in investments, for $12.4 billion in lower-middle-income nations, and $8 billion in upper-middle-income nations. This is an average cost of a little more than $4.70 per person.
The study's leader, Dr. Robert Black, said:
Many of these deaths could be prevented if high-impact and affordable solutions reached the populations that needed them most.
Our analysis shows that expanding access to care to keep more mothers and children alive and healthy is feasible, and a highly cost-effective investment.
For less than $5 per person, essential health services could reach the people who are most in need of them. Community health workers or primary health centers can deliver the majority of these services, which reduces the cost of expanding coverage.
However, not everyone agrees that the plan would be practical to implement or effective in the real world. Arijit Nandi, a professor at McGill University in Canada, said that the plan outlined in the study had potential, but would meet several barriers. For example, gender discrimination will prevent many women from actually using birth control even when it is relatively easy to obtain, since women may have relatives or spouses controlling their health care decisions, or even curtailing their ability to travel outside the home.
According to Katrina Pascual of Tech Times, Nandi also pointed out that the study did not take into account resources and facilities for immunization, which is also critical to boosting overall health.
The study, led by Dr. Robert Black of the John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, was published by the World Bank in the April 9th edition of The Lancet. The findings were also presented at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health conference in San Francisco.
According to Jennifer Licata of the Beacon Transcript, the work of Dr. Black is a continuation of concerns voiced in 2000, when many world leaders decided to tackle the problem of infant, child, and mother death over the course of the next 15 years. Their "Millenium Development" goal was to reduce child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters to return them to 1990 levels, but unfortunately, they did not succeed.