Thursday, February 02, 2006

Corruption is bad for your health

Transparency International has just published its 2006 Global Corruption Report which highlights corruption in health care systems globally and its effects on human health. Corruption is estimated to siphon away some 5% of the 1.7 trillion dollars in global health care budgets, and practices of thief, bribery and extortion may be responsible for lowered standards of care and the spread of drug resistant diseases. Of course, the ones who pay the most for this are the world’s poor, who may not have the kwacha, pesos or francs to pay bribes, or the means to avoid taking fake drugs, or the choice not to fall victim to what ends up passing for care in under-resourced clinics.

The BBC Health site has some commentary on the report, both on why health care systems are so prone to corruption worldwide, and what can be done about it. Fighting global corruption in health care looks like an uphill battle, however, when it is viewed as stemming from the nature of health care systems within a competitive market context: “What marks the health sector out is that there are large sums of money - often public - washing around in complex systems involving a variety of players from doctors and patients to drug firms and government officials, all of whom have competing interests.” Maybe the plot of The Constant Gardener was not so farfetched after all.


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