If you’re a health worker in Uganda, what do you need in order to provide the best possible care for your patients – people who could be suffering from anything from HIV to broken limbs? You need a range of medicines and other medical supplies, like stethoscopes or blood pressure cuffs. And of course enough medical personnel.
But perhaps most fundamentally, you also need the basic infrastructure to provide patient services. This means regular electricity, running water, and access to transportation. The physical infrastructure of health facilities can have an enormous and basic impact on how services are delivered – but we often don’t think about infrastructure’s important role until health systems start to fall apart.
In the case of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the role of physical infrastructure was clear. Facilities were overwhelmed. Without functioning water, electricity, or waste disposal systems, many facilities could not practice good infection control – a potential driver of continued disease transmission. Patients resorted to using cabs or public transportation, increasing risk of exposure to Ebola, when facilities couldn’t provide transportation. Together, these deficiencies made it extraordinarily difficult to not only contain the disease, but also to successfully respond to Ebola’s rampage of West Africa.
When news coverage primarily focuses on health system failures, it often overlooks the places where health care infrastructure improvements are occurring, such as Uganda. Through an ongoing study focused on assessing health system performance, researchers at the Infectious Diseases Research Collaboration (IDRC) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) found that Uganda greatly improved its health facility infrastructure across the board. [Read more…]