Despite ambitions by Botswana to have quality, reliable and standardised healthcare services, there is growing evidence that the country is regressing from achieving health equity and eliminating health disparities. These were the findings of a recently released report by Southern African Development Community (SADC).
According to the not-for-profit public health organisation – Southern Health Institute (SHI) – which commissioned the report entitled 2019 Southern Africa Annual Health “as economic inequality in Botswana has deepened, so too has inequality in health. Almost every chronic condition, from stroke to heart disease and arthritis, follows a predictable pattern of rising prevalence with declining income.”
Health inequality is a vital indicator of a country’s health and data from the report shows that there is higher risk of Batswana suffering from poor health because of the lower socio-economic position of most citizens. Health inequalities are the methodical differences in the health status of various population groups or individuals that occur mainly because of the uneven distribution of social, environmental and economic conditions within societies. “Such differences also play a part in the risk of people getting ill and their ability to prevent sickness,” says the report.
Amongst other things, the report states that individuals with lower socio-economic positions are at a higher risk of poor health and that “health inequalities are the unfair and preventable differences in people’s health across the population and between specific population groups.”
Health inequality in Botswana is linked to life expectancy and the more there is high health inequality the more ordinary citizens are likely to be deprived and limited in their chances to live longer. “The existence of health inequalities in Botswana means that the citizens’ right to the best measure of physical and mental health is not by any chance being achieved,” states the report.
In terms of life expectancy, data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that women in Botswana still live longer than their male counterparts with an average life expectancy rate of 68.4 as compared to men’s 63.6 years. Over the past few years, health inequalities have become a vital public health concern and the subject of both research and policy attention in Botswana. Government reports, as well as many epidemiological studies, have provided evidence that a wide range of health outcomes and health-related behaviours are socio-economically patterned, and that the magnitude of health inequalities is even increasing.
However despite the disparities SADC still maintains that they are in the process of ensuring that they attain an acceptable standard of health for all citizens and to reach specific targets within the objective of “Health for All” by 2020. “We remain committed to the health of the region’s citizens,” says SADC.