We often think about healthcare as a separate entity from socioeconomic factors but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Health affects every aspect of life. It is often said that your health is your wealth or your greatest asset, and a healthy nation is a working nation. Palliative care is a discipline of medicine that reduces serious health-related suffering for children and adults. It is very critical to integrate palliative care fully into Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to alleviate unnecessary suffering.
Access to palliative care is poor in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) where up to 80% of the world’s need for palliative care is situated, according to the World Health Organization and the Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance Global Atlas of Palliative Care. Research and Statistics from the International Children’s Palliative Care Network suggest that 21.5 million children would benefit from palliative care annually.
In order to strengthen the case for, and close the ‘access abyss’ to, palliative care in LMIC, health economic arguments are required to build a business case for audiences such as policy makers, government officials and other key stakeholders. Poverty reduction at the household level features high on the list of targets for governments globally and is Goal number 1 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
By timely control of symptoms and through patient-centred communication palliative care can support poverty reduction at household level, by reducing the need for non-beneficial (sometimes very costly) care, and by allowing patients and/or their family caregivers to return to work. Recent research in Malawi investigated out-of-pocket costs of healthcare following a diagnosis of advanced cancer, to see whether receipt of palliative care might be linked to reduced costs whilst maintaining quality of life. The research findings can be read in full here.
A short animated video was made to summarize the research findings. Please watch the video by clicking the link here Palliative care and poverty reduction – YouTube (4-minute watch)
This research needs to be extended to other settings and for other conditions, and paves the way for further data to support a stronger business case for global advocacy efforts.