Through Mercy Ships, volunteer clinicians armed with donated clinical decision support tools from Wolters Kluwer can impact global communities and advance health equity.
Access to quality, evidence-based care and robust health infrastructure remains a challenge in many developing countries. The impacts can have far-reaching implications both from a health equity and quality of life perspective, but also in delayed economic development.
To address health equity challenges, it's key to understand the wider scope of the state of care as well as targeted opportunities for impact.
Quality of care challenges in developing countries
A 2018 Lancet article studied the current state of quality of care in low- and middle-income countries as part of a larger call for sustainable and equitable systemic health system reform. Key findings included:
- Providers perform less than half of the recommended evidence-based care actions - less than half of women were examined within one hour after giving birth in a facility
- Health systems with poor quality of care result in over 8 million deaths per year, resulting in economic welfare losses of $6 trillion in 2015 alone
- Inadequate platform integrations can undermine health systems’ ability to care for complex and emerging health conditions
- High-quality health care is unevenly distributed based on class and income, and lack of trust in health systems results in underutilization
By treating these systemic care challenges, the study identifies opportunities to reduce costs and increase economic benefits in addition to the humanitarian need to provide quality care.
Additionally, a 2019 study found an estimated 1.7 billion children and adolescents worldwide didn’t have access to surgical care and 453 million children under five years old didn’t have access to basic life-saving surgical care. Patients with these treatable causes, such as injuries, deformities, and surgical conditions, can lead to high mortality rates and lower quality of life.
Targeting health equity from the sea
As many seek to address the largest systemic issues, a number of organizations are looking to provide care in targeted ways, such as Mercy Ships, a non-profit with the largest civilian hospital ships in the world focused on treating surgical care.
Mercy Ship’s mission is to power “floating hospitals”, providing free access to high-quality surgical and medical procedures in a sterile operating environment to patients of low- and middle-income areas near coastlines. Surgeries provided include cleft-lip and palate, cataracts, windswept and bow-legged deformities, twisted knees, tumors, and many other procedures.
Additionally, teams provide tools, clinician training, and resources to host countries and local governments to help build sustainable health infrastructures and leave behind a more supported and empowered community.
By visiting countries from the ocean, they can provide access to the 40% of the world’s population who live within 100 km (60 mi) of a coastline. In the more remote regions of the world, infrastructure and access to electricity can be limited or nonexistent, so providing access to evidence-based, clinical information to volunteer clinicians in remote areas can be a challenge.