Global call for focus on health systems

12 November 2010

Australian researchers have joined with leading academics from around the world to call for a new focus to improve systems of health in low and middle-income countries, in a paper published in the highly-respected journal The Lancet.

Leading experts from the Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health participated in a review of 10 years worth of academic studies and found that health systems in low and middle-income countries are unlikely to be able to use often well-funded programs to tackle global killer diseases effectively because of poor health infrastructure.

"There are a whole range of factors that inhibit the ability of health services in low and middle-income countries to tackle chronic and infectious disease," according to George Institute Senior Research Fellow and paper co-author Dr Alexandra Martiniuk.

"Health systems in developing countries are often over-centralised, they lack trained health workers and their supply chains for getting medicines or other products from factories to people are insufficient. These factors, combined with many others, mean that while funding is often made available internationally for tackling global diseases, health services in low and middle-income countries simply can't prevent, diagnose, deliver and sustain effective treatment," she said.

"This is compounded by a funding vogue for infectious disease like HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, which while welcome, might be more effective if channelled into improving the health systems that are required to prevent, diagnose and treat these illnesses," said Dr Martiniuk.

"Globally, governments should be focusing their efforts on understanding the interplay between global diseases and health systems. Without well supported and well funded health systems in low and middle-income countries, the burden placed on these developing nations is likely to be crippling. It's clear that the best way to prevent this is to focus the wider global effort on improving the standard of health systems in these countries," said Dr Martiniuk.

Media enquiries: Robert Gunning, George Institute for Global Health, 8238 2424, 0410 411 983,