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Patients per doctor

30 October 2007

Strange maps recently posted a map showing the great cross-national disparity of access to doctors in the world. An equally interesting map would be one that featured the annual salary and living expenses doctors face across the world. My guess is there would be strong correlations between the two maps. There is a serious health care worker shortage in most African countries – there have been some novel ideas on how to get around it (mobility being one option, as described in some examples below), but I wonder what fundamentally needs to change to train and retain sufficient numbers of health care workers in poor rural areas.

The map reminded me of the YouTube clip that I posted in the comments before about the Motorcycle Doctors, made by our friends at GOOD Magazine. I also found on YouTube a lower quality video (and bikes, not motorbikes) of a similar idea in South Africa. (And here is yet another.) Transport is essential when it comes to health care in poor rural areas. Not only does the increased mobility of healthcare workers increase the number of potential patients by increasing the area healthcare workers can cover, but also by allowing sick patients to be seen without requiring they make the expensive and obviously difficult journey to the clinic/hospital. But I wonder – who gets to keep the bikes? Who pays to have the bikes fixed? This is a very different situation from the previous bikes to Africa post – and the incentive structure is also very different.

A friend and colleague has recently started a non-profit organization, Global Medical Knowledge, to try and address some gaps in up-to-date training of health care workers in resource-poor countries. I imagine there are other, similar organizations trying to make an impact on health disparities using technology.

What other things could be done?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Audrey permalink
    31 October 2007 1:51 am

    I think that training local health workers is extremely important. How about arming them with mobile phones to access health information from resource centers?

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