The United States has earned the dubious distinction of being the industrialized country with the highest healthcare spending but a persistently unhealthy population. This is because the high spending is accompanied by an equally high increase in medical costs making health care out of reach for the millions of low income Americans living paycheck to paycheck. The great American reality of growing income inequality means that while the rich can afford to fall sick, the poor cannot. Thus, the size of one’s bank balance becomes the barrier preventing sick people from seeking medical attention. A healthcare system that only works for the upper classes is clearly sick and the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) aims to treat it by attacking the tumor causing all the problems - the rising costs. By reducing insurance and treatment costs for middle and low-income families, Obamacare hopes to make healthcare an easily obtainable necessity rather than a privilege bestowed on the wealthy.
The problem in Uganda is similar except instead of high costs you have long, dusty, unpaved roads and instead of Obamacare you have our Mobile Health Units. For the millions of Ugandans living in rural regions the closest healthcare facility can be as far as 10km. For a pregnant woman in labor, a young boy symptomatic of malaria, or an elderly person with AIDS traversing this 10km is the difference between life and death. Yet for 68% of those living in these isolated villages there are no cars, buses, trains, or even ambulances to help them reach a doctor. They have no choice but to walk often despite excruciating pain, often with time running out, just to reach a rudimentary healthcare facility and be faced with overflowing waiting rooms, missing doctors, expensive drugs, and unsanitary operating rooms. Thus, the problem starts with distance and is compounded by poverty. By moving from village to village conducting health check ups and providing affordable drugs, our Mobile Health Units strive to fight both problems. These clinics on wheels bring medical help to the patients rather than the other way around hence making health care easily accessible to the poor.
The US spends about $8000 per person on health care while Uganda spends a meager $106. This $7894 difference accounts for the better hospitals, better doctors, and better care that the US health care system offers. Although these benefits are not equally available to all, the government has taken a step to do so with Obamacare. In Uganda the problems are different and require more innovative solutions like those provided by the Mobile Health Units. However, whether it’s a developed super power or a developing Sub-Saharan nation, health care continues to evade the poor. Perhaps it is time for us to analyze the symptoms more carefully, diagnose the problem, and execute a treatment plan that can make access basic care a universal right.
Written by Stuti Ginodia