IRVING, Texas — On March 7, 2023, House Resolution (H.Res) 204 was introduced by Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) in the House of Representatives to address the need to adopt a united health care strategy worldwide. This resolution, in honor of Dr. Paul Farmer, was introduced in light of the weak health care systems that undermine the health of millions of people, particularly in low-income countries. Every year, there are more than 680,000 deaths from HIV/AIDS, 1.5 million deaths from tuberculosis and 627,000 deaths from malaria. Many health care systems in developing countries lack medical infrastructure for these illnesses, which are prevalent among the poor.
As such, developed nations must prioritize the creation of a global health care approach aimed to help the 3.5 billion people living in poverty. According to the Lancet Commission on Investing in Health, the spending necessary to implement universal health care coverage in low-income and lower-middle-income countries is estimated at $368 billion, just 1.6% of the United States’ GDP in 2021. H.Res 204, therefore, champions the need to adopt a global health solidarity policy aimed at relieving the burden for many developing countries. In this way, H.Res 204 illustrates the importance of health care and its effects on poverty.
How H.Res 204 Addresses Health Care
- The Five S’s: Developed by Dr. Paul Farmer, the Five S’s serve as a guideline to support the health care systems of developing countries.
- Staff: Maintaining high-quality human resources, such as clinical workers, and long-term training are vital for a global health solidarity strategy.
- Space: The need for quality infrastructure when it comes to service delivery is essential to ensure proper care for all people.
- Stuff: This includes all medical equipment, technology and supplies needed to ensure high-quality care.
- Systems: The government, health information systems, logistics and laboratory capacity are required to meet the health care needs of the people.
- Social Support: This includes the funding behind the health care system to finance new developments in medical technologies and compensate health care workers.
- Increased U.S. Assistance: H.Res 204 challenges the U.S. to meet the U.N.’s goal of investing 0.7% of its gross national income in development assistance. The resolution further demands the U.S. dedicate $125 billion to narrow the universal health care coverage financing gap for low-income and lower-middle-income countries. H.Res 204 describes how the excess funding will be for multilateral cooperation responsible for continuous funding for the national health plans of developing countries.
- Laws & Diplomatic Influence: H.Res 204 also supports debt cancellation for all low-income and middle-income countries that require it. The lack of strenuous debt would allow developing countries to invest more in their struggling health care systems. The resolution also calls for equal representation for low-income countries in global institutions such as the World Bank. This would grant developing countries more representation and decision-making power in issues that affect them.
How Effective Health Care Reduces Poverty
- Quality & Affordability: Unfortunately, many health care systems in developing countries lack quality and affordability. In a study detailing the quality of care in developing countries, only 56% of providers in Pakistan successfully diagnosed viral diarrhea, a leading cause of child mortality. Not only that, but diarrhea treatments in developing countries are often ineffective and extremely expensive. However, the study reveals how alternatives, such as face-to-face interventions and seminars, are more cost-effective. These alternatives reduced unnecessary prescriptions by roughly 23% and reduced the number of children admitted for diarrhea at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi by 50%. Furthermore, these alternatives increased the rate of correctly treated cases from 16% to 48%. As such, health care can combat poverty by lowering medical expenses and increasing access to quality care.
- Economic Development: An efficient health care system can also stimulate economic development for a country. For each one-year increase in life expectancy, a country’s GDP is projected to grow up to 4%. By creating a global health solidarity strategy, developing countries can improve the health of their workforce. A healthier workforce, in turn, can strengthen the national GDP and lower poverty rates. Furthermore, estimates for 2040 reveal that the economic impact of better health can produce an additional $12 trillion of global GDP. An immense global economy can create more jobs and provide additional funding for developing countries to help the poor escape poverty.
Promoting the passage of H.Res 204 is vital as it has several benefits and shows the importance of equitable health care and its effects on poverty reduction.
What’s Next for H.Res 204?
If the crumbling health care systems in developing countries are not addressed, tackling poverty will become increasingly difficult. Fortunately, H.Res 204 spearheads a strategy to assist in global health care and its effects on poverty alleviation.
– Manav Yarlagadda