Infectious and Chronic Diseases
The most prevalent diseases of poverty, many of which are also infectious by nature, are malaria, tuberculosis, respiratory infections, water borne diseases and HIV/AIDS. In addition to having a large share of global disease burden in terms of these major infectious diseases, the low income countries are also characterised by the burden of chronic diseases like cerebro and cardio vascular disease, depression, diabetes, many physical disabilities due to low nutrient food intake, etc. The economic impact of HIV/AIDS is particularly worrisome due to its high global mortality (more than 80 per cent) occurring among the working age youths with the low income countries of Africa and Asia bearing the burnt of this disease. The disease’s impact on the labour force is heightened by its political significance. This is attributed to the massive diversion of resources away from fighting other diseases of poverty which exacerbates its economic consequences. This is also true of diseases prevalent among children like acute lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases.Referring to the impact of the high disease burden suffered in countries like those of sub-Saharan Africa, Jeffrey Sachs (2004), has argued for ‘big push’ in public investments in health. However, there are others who suggest that the impact of public spending on health in low income countries is very small. The burden from diseases in countries suffering most due to their high prevalence is thus compounded by the problem of the needed funds to overcome its economic consequences.
There is then an additional aspect of inefficiency in public health deliveries. Major reasons cited for this in the low income countries are:
(i) Public health bureaucracies are generally woefully inefficient and corrupt, especially in low income countries. As a result, the proportion of investment ending up actually reaching the beneficiaries is often very low.
(ii) Social programmes that are nominally targeted at the low-income groups are frequently captured by the articulate and the influential rich.