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Posted: December 4th, 2022

Public Health Challenges in Developing Countries

Public Health Challenges in Developing Countries

Public health is a major concern in third-world countries, where many people face poverty, malnutrition, infectious diseases, and environmental hazards. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), public health is “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society” (WHO, 2021). However, achieving this goal is not easy in developing countries, where public health systems are often weak, underfunded, and overwhelmed by multiple challenges.

Some of the main public health challenges in developing countries are:

– Lack of access to clean water and sanitation: According to the WHO, more than 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services, and 4.2 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation services (WHO, 2019). This exposes them to the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and diarrhea, which are among the leading causes of death in children under five years old (UNICEF, 2019).
– High burden of infectious diseases: Developing countries bear a disproportionate burden of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases. These diseases not only cause morbidity and mortality, but also have social and economic impacts, such as stigma, discrimination, poverty, and reduced productivity. According to the WHO, in 2019, there were 38 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 10 million people who fell ill with tuberculosis, and 229 million cases of malaria worldwide, with the majority of them occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia (WHO, 2020a; WHO, 2020b; WHO, 2020c).
– Low coverage of essential health services: Developing countries often lack adequate health infrastructure, human resources, equipment, supplies, and medicines to provide essential health services to their populations. According to the WHO, in 2017, only 45% of the world’s population had access to at least one essential health service (such as immunization, family planning, antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, treatment for pneumonia or malaria), and only 29% had access to a comprehensive set of essential health services (WHO, 2020d). This means that millions of people are missing out on life-saving interventions that could prevent or treat common health problems.
– Emerging and re-emerging threats: Developing countries are also vulnerable to emerging and re-emerging threats such as pandemic influenza, Ebola virus disease, Zika virus disease, antimicrobial resistance, and climate change. These threats pose new challenges for public health systems that are already struggling with existing problems. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility and inequity of global health systems and has disrupted essential health services in many countries (WHO, 2021b).

To address these public health challenges in developing countries, there is a need for concerted action from various stakeholders at local, national, regional, and global levels. Some of the possible actions include:

– Strengthening public health systems: Developing countries need to invest more in building resilient and responsive public health systems that can provide universal health coverage (UHC) to their populations. UHC means that all people have access to quality health services that they need without facing financial hardship (WHO, 2021c). This requires increasing public spending on health, improving governance and accountability, expanding human resources for health, enhancing health information systems,
– Promoting intersectoral collaboration: Public health is not only a matter of the health sector but also involves other sectors such as education,


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