Growing healthcare capacity to improve access to healthcare

Healthcare capacity is the ability of a system to deliver healthcare effectively to those who need it when they need it. This includes having enough healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics, as well as trained healthcare professionals available, with the right equipment, all working efficiently to provide the best chance of accessing successful care. It also means having an infrastructure in place to allow all people to easily reach healthcare facilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exposed the need for capacity in healthcare systems, with the pandemic putting huge pressure on health systems worldwide. Beyond the pandemic, there remains a lack of adequate healthcare capacity, limiting access to care. Many low and lower middle income countries face extreme shortages of facilities, diagnostics, services and trained healthcare professionals. This makes it very challenging to keep populations in a healthy state and is particularly difficult for people with cancer or other chronic illnesses as ongoing access to physicians and monitoring services is vital to staying in control of their disease.

Causes of lack of healthcare capacity

Although a lack of available funding is one of the predominant reasons for issues with healthcare capacity, many other challenges can limit capacity. These include expertise, staffing issues, and lack of resources and prioritisation of essential services. For example, the world is suffering from a massiveThe WHO estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa, despite having 25% of the world’s illness burden, has only 1.3 per cent of the world’s trained health personnel. Also, health workers in rural communities of high-income countries may lack access to centres of excellence. That’s why we have partnered with project Echo in New Mexico, US to provide a remote tele-mentoring program connecting rural areas with centres of expertise. This model is now being used in many countries to improve oncology care in rural or underserved communities.

What are we doing

To help overcome some of these barriers, we have established a number of programmes aimed at making lasting improvements in local capabilities. Our focus is on increasing local resources, as we believe this provides the most sustainable way of addressing local health needs and helping develop healthcare systems for the future.

Our activities range from educating and training healthcare professionals and regulatory personnel, to helping establish clinics and laboratories. We focus on increasing understanding in areas such as diagnostic and treatment options and their appropriate use, product safety and general healthcare.

During the pandemic, we have been working with healthcare providers, laboratories, authorities, and organisations in lower middle income countries to help make sure patients continue to receive the tests, treatment and care they need during these challenging times and into the future. As a result of the provision of new infrastructure for COVID-19 testing, countries are now benefiting from improved diagnostic systems for other diseases.

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