The revolution in science and technology has caused deep changes in human development and its values, with positive and negative impacts on all spheres of society, particularly on human health. Latin America is faced with several development challenges, chief among them are public health epidemics, environmental degradation, vulnerability of rampant poverty, geopolitical climate, impediments towards expansion of education and social services, and limited trade competitiveness. The value of ICTs, particularly in addressing these challenges, as well as improving access to information required for decision making, research and production, is now well recognized as governments continue supporting them as powerful change agents throughout the Latin America region. Peru presents a potential for ICT applications in social sectors, education, health, and political participation.
In Peru it has been heartening to see the establishment of strategic alliances between public institutions and civil society organizations, through the various collaboration methods using ICTs. The community effect is reflected in the promotion of greater familiarization with the use of the Internet, and assisting medical team’s involvement and access with the activities of the community.
Today the threat of infectious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS have assumed global proportions and is threatening hardwon gains in health and life expectancy. The threat is hanging over the civilization like a Damocles Sword. Contagious diseases like AIDS are now the world’s biggest killer of children and young adults.
They account for more than 13 million deaths a year, that is one in two deaths in developing countries. For tackling them, ICT can be an effective weapon. Now ICTs have proven to be a powerful tool in improving the quality of healthcare for people globally, and only an improved healthcare on a sustained basis can root out the incidence of contagious diseases in the long run.
There are also many information society healthcare technologies, which can improve patient care, while others can make health systems more efficient and responsive. ICT for Health (also known as e-Health) describes the application of information and communications technologies across the whole range of functions that affect the healthcare sector, from the doctors to the hospital managers, via nurses, data processing specialists, social security administrators and of course, the patients themselves, and local communities.
e-Health is very much needed in Latin America, where about 220 million people languish in poverty, with little access to conventional healthcare. In the Latin American context, Alexander von Humboldt Institute of Tropical Medicine Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (www.upch.edu. pe/tropicales) and multidisciplinary teams (Codesi, EHAS, Minsa, Voxiva, INICTEL, Concytec, DiploFoundation, E-Health Lab, PUCP) working in Latin America have played a crucial role in the application of ICT in the healthcare.
In Peru it has been heartening to see the establishment of strategic alliances between public institutions and civil society organizations, through the various collaboration methods using ICTs. The community effect is reflected in the promotion of greater familiarization with the use of the Internet, and assisting medical team’s involvement and access with the activities of the community. Improving access to remote areas, and maintaining a presence in these areas is also one of the priorities of this collaborative approach. However, the language and cultural barriers, local geographic conditions and the inability of many poor people to pay for the access of Internet services are some of the impediments towards the fruition of those objectives.
� To create a demand for information and services, and promote those services for the promotion and maintenance of health and well-being.
� It is essential to build human networks, with the support of ICT, that motivate and harness, in dynamic and systematic form, the interaction between people, thereby strengthening the generation, dissemination and exchange of information and knowledge based on their professional, institutional and social objectives.
� To create knowledge, to learn and to share knowledge on inter-sectorial societies, and ICT innovations in health and education for human development.
� To share successful experiences that have been implemented in Peru, to generate strategic alliances with companies, universities and ministries for articulating efforts and to exchange lessons learnt.
� To urge and enable the academia in ICT, and to grant technical and pedagogical endorsement to them.
In a nutshell, it is urgent to have proper public health policies and aggressive actions, yet it must be attentive to the availability in the access of ICTs, and must assure its effective use. It is also essential to conform and follow natural human communication networks, with the support of ICTs, that can motivate and harness the dynamics and the systematic form of communication, which would normally be created.
Over the years, in the developing countries, the application of ICTs in health sector has shown to provide powerful and practical tools in healthcare for doctors, patients, and other healthcare providers, in addition to assisting family members and communities at large.
One sees with capacity building activities through knowledge and experience sharing plus skills building of relevant healthcare personnel, the quality of proper and trusted healthcare for all those living in developing countries is reinforced. ICTs can be of much help and the axis of e-Health is the greater power acquiring the patient or user. Health information technology is transforming and will continue to transform health and healthcare in Latin America.
Healthcare issues may haunt Latin America : A Study
Despite Latin America’s economic growth of 5 percent in the last three years and significant progress in reducing poverty in the recent years, a World Bank report launched to mark the World Health Day, warns that illness, accidents, and normal life-cycle events such as old age can jeopardize people’s health and throw their households and families into poverty.
The report ‘Beyond Survival: Protecting Households from Health Shocks in Latin America’�is based on six case studies in: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, and Mexico, and argues that applying a classical insurance system could better protect Latin American households which are overburdened with out-of-pocket spending and lack sufficient access to instruments with which to pool risks.
“With total health expenditures accounting for 6.4 percent of gross domestic product, Latin America and the Caribbean are the highest-expending regions in the world after the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,” said Cristian Baeza, a World Bank’s Acting Director of Health and co-author of this report. “Public expenditures on health care are low in most countries in the region, but private spending on health � particularly spending out of pocket paid when services are needed – is correspondingly high,” added Truman Packard, World Bank’s Senior Economist and co-author of the report.
The report carries four main messages for policy makers in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region: Health out-of-pocket payments�and loss of income as a consequence of illness �can impoverish households and plunge already poor people into a transgenerational cycle of abject poverty. People need protection from the potentially ruinous costs of healthcare and loss of income due to illness. The costs rival losses of income from unemployment as a cause of poverty.
Risk pooling in LAC has mostly benefited formally employed salaried workers who are covered by mandatory public and quasi-public risk pooling mechanisms. Extending risk pooling to the large and growing informal labour sector is a priority in LAC. This means inventing contribution mechanisms for non-poor households to participate in risk pooling that are not linked to workplace or labour status.
“Despite nearly two decades of bold reforms in the health sector, households in the Latin America and the Caribbean region are still overexposed to health shocks that can force them to cut consumption of other basic services and goods and even result in destitution,” said Guillermo Perry, World Bank’s Chief Economist for the Latin America and the Caribbean Region. “Around the world, including in Latin America, health care costs are rising,” Perry added.
“Beyond Survival breaks new ground in the ongoing debate about health finance and financial protection from the costs of health care,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank’s Sector Manager for Health in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region. “This book reviews existing and new evidence on the mechanisms and magnitude of impoverishing effects of health events and the importance of public policy to prevent such impoverishment,” Hansen added.
(Courtesy: World Bank)