by Yvette Carnell
When you think of American news stories about Rwanda, you probably think of genocide – Hutus slaughtering Tutsis. Even on a broader scale, most of the Western news stories about countries in African concentrate largely on failed states and corruption, but there are success stories out there, most of which go unreported or under-reported.
One such success story is how Rwandans have, over the last decade, reduced deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria by 80 percent. In addition, maternal mortality dropped by 60 percent, life expectancy doubled, all at an average health care cost of only $55 per person per year.
This is one of the most dramatic health turnarounds in the history of any country, and some believe that the U.S. has much to learn from Rwanda.
The Atlantic reports on some of the techniques used in Rwanda to reduce illness:
Sustainable gain, says Dr. Binagwaho, only comes when programs build capacity and integrate all aspects of health care. In addition to building hospitals and clinics, Rwanda trained 45,000 community health workers that provide in-home care and psychosocial support for HIV patients as well as basic primary care for the rest of their communities. Community health workers bring health care into people’s homes and reach those who otherwise might not receive care. To create a financial incentive to coordinate care, a performance-based financing system pays hospitals, clinics and community health workers to follow-up on patients and improve primary care.
Rwanda has a community health care plan which has an annual premium of $2. Unlike America’s health care system, though, Rwanda’s ensures that even the poorest people receive medical care:
Given the poverty of many in Rwanda, these low premiums still price out a significant slice of the population. The government of Rwanda is committed to equitable health services and Dr. Binagwaho says, “Whatever we do, we make sure that the poorest and most vulnerable have benefits too. We do not just do things for people who can access healthcare normally.”
This comprehensive, all inclusive health care system is working for Rwanda in ways never previously imagined. And if Rwanda can do it, is there any reason why America can’t?