By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Here is an interesting article from Agence France-Presse and published by The Telegraph, also locally by Interaksyon.com, “Financial crisis caused 500,000 extra cancer deaths, according to Lancet study.” The study, which was originally published by the Lancet medical journal, revealed that there were around 260,000 “excess cancer deaths” in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries from 2008-2010. The OECD is comprised of the 34 richest countries in the world.
For the European Union alone, there were 160,000 excess cancer deaths, in the US 18,000, and in France 1,500. The estimate worldwide is 500,000 excess cancer deaths.
The study analyzed trends from 1990 to 2010, a period of 20 years.
“We found that increased unemployment was associated with increased cancer mortality, but that universal health coverage protected against these effects,” said Dr. Mahiben Maruthappu of Imperial College London.
“This was especially the case for treatable cancers including breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.”
However, there was no such finding of excess cancer deaths in Spain and the UK where universal health care coverage is in place.
Imagine what would be the result if the same study was conducted in poor, underdeveloped countries where health care coverage for the poor majority are very limited; public health care facilities are understaffed; essential medicines and equipment are sorely lacking; and funds are meager. Thus, in these countries, poor people bring their sick relatives to a government hospital only when the patient is on the brink of death.
Furthermore, the study covered only cancer and not poor man’s diseases such as tuberculosis, which is very prevalent in backward countries such as the Philippines. In this country, even long-controlled, non-fatal illnesses such as measles and diarrhea have been killing children up to now.
The direct correlation between an increase in unemployment and an increase in cancer deaths, which was established by the study, could very well apply to countries such as the Philippines. It’s all about accessibility and affordability of health care services.
A similar study in the Philippines could produce more alarming results. Why?
In the Philippines, private health expenditures – which include direct household out-of-pocket spending, private insurance, charitable donations, and direct service payments by private corporations – are way higher than what the government allots and spends on health care for its citizens. In 2013, private health expenditure was 3.01 percent of GDP, while government health spending was a mere 1.39 percent of GDP. Also in 2013, government health expenditure was a mere 31.64 percent of total health expenditures. The rest was shouldered by the private sector, 82 to 83 percent of which were direct household out of pocket spending.
By the way, OECD countries have the highest percentage of government health spending vis-á-vis total health expenditure. (Although the highest percentages were in Cuba at 95 percent and Tuvalu 99 percent.) The Philippines is among the countries with the lowest percentage of government health spending, in the company of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Iran, Indonesia, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Togo, and Zimbabwe.
What does this tell us?
The incoming Duterte administration should reverse the thrust of the previous Aquino administration of privatizing health care services through submitting government hospitals to Public-Private Partnership projects. Otherwise, more would die of illnesses, even the treatable ones.