QUITO, Ecuador — Healthcare in Ecuador has greatly improved since 2007 when Rafael Correa became president and doubled the amount of funding available for public health. This allowed the construction of new hospitals and clinics, upgrades to existing health centers and the hiring of more doctors. With improved healthcare, fewer deaths have occurred due to diseases in Ecuador and poverty has also been reduced. Ecuador now has one of the top five healthcare systems in Latin America.
Along with improved healthcare, Correa’s efforts to reduce poverty in Ecuador have included new roads, a higher minimum wage and direct cash assistance. The poverty rate in Ecuador has fallen from about 37 percent in 2007 to 23 percent in 2015.
Ecuadorians have two options for healthcare coverage: the Social Security (IESS) system and public health care. Those enrolled in IESS pay into the program through payroll or a monthly fee of $65. The plan covers all expenses, including medicines. There are no restrictions on who can enroll in IESS.
Public healthcare is free to anyone in Ecuador. Like IESS, there are public hospitals in large cities and hundreds of clinics around the country. The public healthcare system receives less funding than IESS and there are some restrictions, such as reserving vaccines for high-risk patients. Private healthcare plans are also offered in Ecuador for a fraction of the cost of private plans in the U.S. However, not all areas of Ecuador have private healthcare facilities.
Non-communicable diseases in Ecuador are the top cause of death. Among these diseases are ischemic heart disease, lower respiratory infections, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lung disease and hyper-intensive heart disease.
In areas of poor sanitation, Ecuadorians are at risk of contracting food and waterborne illnesses such as bacterial diarrhea, typhoid fever and hepatitis. Hepatitis and typhoid fever are viral diseases spread through food and water contaminated with fecal matter or sewage. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E are the most common in Ecuador. A vaccine is available for Hepatitis A, but a Hepatitis E vaccine is not yet available. Hepatitis E is most dangerous for pregnant women. Typhoid fever can be fatal if left untreated.
Diseases in Ecuador also include mosquito-borne illness such as malaria and dengue fever. These diseases may occur in tropical and low-lying coastal regions of Ecuador, but the mosquitoes that carry these diseases cannot thrive in regions of higher altitude. The number of malaria cases in Ecuador has been greatly reduced due to anti-malaria programs. Insecticides around homes, mosquito nets and treating rainwater collectors have been effective in reducing the risk of malaria.
The infant mortality rate in Ecuador has declined from four percent in 2007 to three percent in 2015. Maternal mortality rates in Ecuador have also slightly declined since 2007. With continued funding for programs to combat dangerous diseases in Ecuador, there is hope for ongoing improvement and the renewal of opportunities for those who might otherwise have been suffering.
– Cassie Lipp