WHO Bulletin: article on health inequities in Bangladesh
5 August, 2011 - Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated and disaster-prone countries in the world. Although absolute poverty has declined in the country in recent years, the gap between the rich and poor has further widened. In the August 2011 issue of The Bulletin, M. Hossain Khan et al assess selected health and human development indicators in Bangladesh, analysing the trends and gaps between the country's rich and poor. The authors have found noteworthy gaps in almost all factors. During the period between 1993 and 2007, rich-poor gaps in urbanization, age at marriage, fertility and overweight increased, while gaps in education, water and sanitation and child vaccination declined.
M. Hossain Khan et al argue that although Bangladesh is likely to achieve several of the health-related MDGs at the national or aggregate level, the critical question is whether it can substantially narrow the internal gaps between the rich and poor. Wealth and power are highly concentrated and disadvantaged segments of the population reap few of the benefits of development. Yet, relevant public policies to redress the situation are rarely implemented. Poverty is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, the health system caters to the rich, urban elite and the poor have less access to health care than the rich. As in the rest of southern Asia, widespread gender discrimination contributes to disparities in health, sex-specific abortions, the neglect of female children and poor access to health care, especially for girls and women.
Many of the indicators used in the study to reflect sustainable and equitable health and development show marked differences between Bangladeshi women belonging to the poorest and the richest quintiles. The authors conclude that policy-makers and planners must therefore use segregated data to formulate better policies and programmes for promoting and protecting equitable health and development. To reduce disparities between the rich and poor, efforts should focus on promoting equitable access to health and to the benefits of social development. Progress towards achieving national and international health goals will only be accelerated by mainstreaming equity in health policies and programmes.