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OP-ED: Inequality through the lens of health technology

  • Published at 12:13 am July 19th, 2021
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Bangladesh's journey towards better health care is riddled with obstacles

Throughout history, humanity has constantly been moving up tiers towards the best that it can be. From the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell to the development of the lightbulb, technology as it exists in present day society contributes to our everyday lives. 

Despite its industrial use, anyone vulnerable to it has the potential to benefit from it. It allows for progression to be made by aiding human life in transportation, lifestyle, emergency responses, and healthcare.

Along this journey to success, is it of no doubt that there will be challenges to face at one point or another, and the access to these inventions sets these achievements aside. Worldwide, the end to this void of inequality and inequity has always been thought about by governments, theorists, researchers, public health practitioners, as well as policy makers. 

Medicinal technology, defined as the use of knowledge and understanding with procedures, systems, devices, and medicines to resolve issues relating to health in order to advance human life conditions, is advancing around the globe and becoming the driving force for curing the next generation.

Advancements in medical technology have been adopted by countries and governments across the globe, developing and developed nations, in order to support their people. However, due partially to these differences and facing a multitude of challenges, countries like Bangladesh have yet to progress at an equal pace to developed and resource-rich countries. 

For example, the United States strives in the fostering of concrete education to their people, allowing for the citizens’ entire lives to be set for success regarding finance, the advancement of technology, as well as the supply of hospitality for all. In contrast, developing nations like Bangladesh lack adequate aid, quality of education, wealth, and responsibility in case of failure.

While the growing numbers of inhabitants is important to note, it is also important to consider Bangladesh’s ongoing changes and projects in sectors other than health. This, in turn, directly corresponds to the dynamic inequality gap between other developed nations’ and Bangladesh’s social and economic sectors.

Bangladesh’s high rate of urbanization adds an additional complexity to the disparities that exist, as more of the population will be underserved. Since the rural population outside of the cities migrate for better jobs and finance, it ultimately results in the miscount and lack of attention to these newcomers.

Healthcare facilities in Bangladesh all share the disparity in that there is a consistent issue regarding the aid in medicinal supplies, lack of available drugs, as well as family planning commodities. Private healthcare facilities, such as Evercare Hospital (Apollo), United Hospital Limited, and Square Hospital, all provide better healthcare than public hospitals.

As shown in a study, advocates of private healthcare facilities have noted the significant decrease in waiting times, as well as being the “main providers” of top class healthcare. In addition, private sectors have shown to have costly drug prices, resulting in the respective valuable treatment.

On the same note, 65% of the time ambulances that have been given to the upazila health complexes will be misunderstood and misused for their proper intent, thus leaving the chance that these ambulances could malfunction or become non-functional at any moment. 

Considering 3.4% of the GDP in Bangladesh is being spent on medicine, the technology which Bangladeshis use to treat patients is years behind current advancements in this area when looking at the developed countries.

Not to forget, Bangladesh’s political instability further damages the nation’s progress as violence and unrest erupts. As the population increases further, these issues are only set to be exacerbated with Bangladesh’s poorly managed facilities and poor access to and utilization of health technology -- furthering the need to remedy the major health crisis in Bangladesh.

Recent efforts and initiatives led by the government have allowed for the current state of medicine to be decent, but not at its full potential. With the development of e-Health, a stepping stone has been utilized; but, the majority of the population hasn’t understood the power of technology, hence preferring to visit physical doctors for aid. 

Even here lies a disparity, that to visit a valid and reliable doctor for aid is difficult due to the lack of education primary health clinics have. The destruction of ambulances, improper treatment, and more leads to this factor.

The question of payment and budget further hinders the ability of locals to get treatment in the first place. Earning extreme minimum wages primarily from Bangladesh’s garments industry restricts the population’s ability to pay for adequate treatment. 

Lastly, the people of Bangladesh’s continuous unrest from political issues, including the problem with urbanization, acts as a continuous subtraction from the overall nationwide “progression bar.” This is a key idea that Bangladesh has to understand in order to help itself.

Perhaps looking into the steps taken by developed countries worldwide, an example being the United States, should be taken into consideration when finding effective solutions. 

Though, the question at hand has no clear answer in the solution to close the ongoing inequality gap, since it keeps widening with the innovations of tomorrow. 

However, with that being said, the most recent coronavirus pandemic response in Bangladesh from the honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been brilliantly managed throughout the nation, compared to the responses in previous years. 

Although the outbreak in Bangladesh has been surging, the response in terms of the factors mentioned is greatly respected. The distribution of the vaccine to the whopping 164 million people is one that other developing nations are unable to provide.

Still to this very day, the management of the outbreak has shown Bangladesh does really have the potential to perform as well as the developed nations. Aside from recent efforts, to better the general health sector, the only mentality of Bangladesh should now be analyzing what to improve upon for healthcare to be optimal.

Mohammad Shayanel Hoque is a student at the American International School of Dhaka, wishing to pursue a career in medicine. Kathryn Thompson is a Public Health PhD researcher and mentor, Brown University.

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