Caring for the sick now a public health priority for developing countries

Of the 57 million people dying worldwide each year, 6 million deaths are caused by cancer and 3 million from HIV/AIDS, with the majority of both occurring in developing countries. These figures indicate the large number of people experiencing incapacitation and pain through shortness of breath, constipation, diarrhoea, nausea as well as distress, depression and anxiety.

New research published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, prepared by research staff at The George Institute for International Health, the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney and the Department of Palliative Medicine at Calvary Hospital, highlights that a potential 100 million people in these poorer nations could benefit from palliative care services, including family members and close companions.

Lead author of the paper Dr Ruth Webster, a Research Fellow at The George Institute, says that "The scale of this epidemic of death and dying requires acknowledgement and priority as a public health issue, with more than just an emphasis on prevention of these diseases and their cure. Around 100 countries around the world have palliative care services, however only 6% are located in Asia and Africa, where the highest demand for the services is".

"Palliative care is not on the health agenda of governments as a public health problem, which is extremely detrimental to the populations that most need these services. WHO has recommended that all countries have a policy to implement these types of services, but despite this, one only African country, has made this a priority, Uganda. South Africa has recently included palliative care in their new health policies." added Dr Webster.

The review found three specific barriers to implementing palliative care in developing countries - government commitment, opioid availability and education. While pain management is only part of the picture, the availability of opioids and morphine is extremely diffi

Contact: Emma Orpilla
Research Australia

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