Achieving universal health coverage in small island states: could importing health services provide a solution?


Suzana, M; Walls, H; Smith, R; Hanefeld, J; (2018) Achieving universal health coverage in small island states: could importing health services provide a solution? BMJ global health, 3 (1). e000612. ISSN 2059-7908 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000612

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Abstract

Universal health coverage (UHC) is difficult to achieve in settings short of medicines, health workers and health facilities. These characteristics define the majority of the small island developing states (SIDS), where population size negates the benefits of economies of scale. One option to alleviate this constraint is to import health services, rather than focus on domestic production. This paper provides empirical analysis of the potential impact of this option. Analysis was based on publicly accessible data for 14 SIDS, covering health-related travel and health indicators for the period 2003-2013, together with in-depth review of medical travel schemes for the two highest importing SIDS-the Maldives and Tuvalu. Medical travel from SIDS is accelerating. The SIDS studied generally lacked health infrastructure and technologies, and the majority of them had lower than the recommended number of physicians in a country, which limits their capacity for achieving UHC. Tuvalu and the Maldives were the highest importers of healthcare and notably have public schemes that facilitate medical travel and help lower the out-of-pocket expenditure on medical travel. Although different in approach, design and performance, the medical travel schemes in Tuvalu and the Maldives are both examples of measures used to increase access to health services that cannot feasibly be provided in SIDS. Our findings suggest that importing health services (through schemes to facilitate medical travel) is a potential mechanism to help achieve universal healthcare for SIDS but requires due diligence over cost, equity and quality control.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy
Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Global Health and Development
Research Centre: Antimicrobial Resistance Centre (AMR)
PubMed ID: 29527349
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/4646990

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