Health inequalities in developing countries worry experts
ANTWERP, BELGIUM – The greatest challenge in the world health remains the health inequalities with and within the low and middle-income countries.
The governor of the province of Antwerp, Prof Dr Cathy Berx said this at the official opening of the 10th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International (ECTMIH) on Monday.
The ECTMIH which ends today brings together scientists and experts from Europe and from all over the world, including many delegates from low and middle-income countries.
“In addition, we are convinced that the populations most in need deserve no less than the best science and the strongest evidence to tackle the many health challenges they are facing,” said Prof Dr Berx, who also chairs the board of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp (ITM).
“We have therefore strategically redefined the future of ITM in the quality of its science, besides the real-life impact of its research and teaching activities. Excellence and relevance have become the guiding motto of the Institute for years to come,” she added.
In keynote speech on complexities and the future of global health research in developing countries at the Congress, Prof Rose Leke of the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon, said over the past years, the widely held consensus is that whatever approach is adopted to address health issues in developing countries, it must be backed by a health research agenda.
“Health research is a key tool to deliver changes and to enable policymakers and practitioners to do more with less resources,” Prof Leke said.
She said a good health research agenda ultimately creates a critical mass of scientists and a solid infrastructure base in developing countries capable of addressing the health care issues facing them; it also helps to foster the development of drugs, vaccines, delivery systems, and solutions to broader health issues affecting these countries.
“Does such a research agenda truly exist?” she queried. “If yes, is it working? To truly answer these questions, we need to consider the history of global health research in developing countries and re-visit some of the models that have been introduced over the years”.
She by the 1990s, the health conditions in developing countries had worsened considerably with investment in health research in these countries was at a record low. “The growing burden of diseases and the risk of spread to other parts of the world spurred the international community to commit to global health research in developing countries,” she said.
From this commitment, Prof Leke added, arose several initiatives and research interactions, with a focus to build a mass of research scientists and to conduct research on health issues prevailing in developing countries.
“One needs to consider recent health challenges such as the Ebola crises,” she said.
She said from well-documented reports, the first Ebola outbreaks occurred in 1976 in Congo-DRC and subsequently in South Sudan causing resulting in 600 deaths.
However, 40 years after that – during the latest crisis in 2014 – were the first Ebola drugs and vaccines evaluated.
“What took us so long? Certainly, in the past years, there has been so much effort and commitment in promoting global health research in developing countries”.
However, Prof Leke said these efforts must be sustained and revised to better address the challenges of global health research in these countries.