World Vision Report: “Health Gap” Leads to Thousands of Preventable Child Deaths Daily

By Holly Frew, World Vision On September 29, 2013

Afghanistan ranks eight among the bottom 10 countries ranked in World Vision’s Global Health Index. (©2013 Narges Ghafary/World Vision)

The gap between the "health rich" and "health poor" is contributing to the deaths of thousands of children every day, a new World Vision report finds.

The gap between "health rich" and "health poor"

The Killer Gap: A Global Index of Health Inequality for Children (.pdf)External Link assesses 176 countries around the world according to the size of the gap between those who have access to good healthcare and those who don't.

People who are "health rich" have the best access to health education, awareness, prevention, and treatment at limited financial cost to themselves.

People who are "health poor" have either no access or prohibitively expensive, geographically challenging access to health education, awareness, prevention, and treatment.

Country wealth does not ensure healthcare access

To rank countries, the study considered factors such as life expectancy, average out-of-pocket cost, medical staff and service availability, and adolescent fertility rate.

The United States is ranked 46 on the global index, below lower-income countries such as Libya (21), Bosnia (36) and Romania (25).

"The fact that the U.S. is ranked lower than many lower-income countries on the index proves that a country's wealth does not guarantee its people access to good healthcare and quality health," said Lisa O'Shea, World Vision's campaign director for Child Health Now.

Countries with the largest and smallest gaps

The ten countries with the largest gaps include:

  • Chad
  • Sierra Leone
  • Guinea
  • Mali
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Niger
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Afghanistan
  • Cameroon
  • Cote d'Ivoire

Seven of the 10 countries with the greatest health gaps are among the poorest countries in the world, but Equatorial Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Cameroon are middle income.

The 10 countries with the smallest gaps are (in order from smallest to widest):

  • France
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • Luxembourg
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • Slovenia
  • Cuba
  • Switzerland

Hard-to-reach children bear the brunt of the health gap

"Over the past 20 years, we've made a lot of progress - the number of children under the age of 5 dying every year has fallen dramatically. But it's still too high - 19,000 every day," says O'Shea.

The number of under-5 deaths has decreased because governments and organizations have reached those who are easiest to access, O'Shea explains.

However, in many cases, this has resulted in a devastating increase in the gap between the health rich and poor, with the most vulnerable children bearing the brunt.

Quaility healthcare for all vulnerable children and mothers

With two years until the deadline for the Millennium Development GoalsExternal Link, World Vision is urging governments to close the health gap in their countries in order to achieve Millennium Development Goals four and five - reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.

Says O'Shea, "It's a horrifying reality that in today's world, when we have the knowledge, resources, and tools to provide everyone with quality maternal, newborn, and child health, we still fall so short."


Learn more

Check out our health gap infographicExternal Link for a visual overview of the health gap crisis and contributing factors.

Read about how the health gap impacts 9-year-old Asar in MongoliaExternal Link, who is fighting bone cancer.

Visit Beyond5.orgExternal Link to learn about World Vision's campaign to end preventable child deaths and ways that you can get involved.

Two ways you can respond

Pray for children and families who do not have access to desperately needed healthcare. Pray for the political will to take the necessary steps to meet Millennium Development Goals four and five - reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.

Make a one-time donation to help equip a healthcare worker. Your gift helps save children by equipping a dedicated healthcare worker in a new or renovated health clinic to prevent and treat life-threatening diseases. 

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