Global access to quality health care has improved in the last two decades

But gap between countries with best and worst treatment grew

map of countries

HEALTH CARE PALETTE  Countries shaded with cooler hues had better health care quality and accessibility in 2015 than those with hotter colors. Researchers created the Healthcare Access and Quality Index to assess each country’s status.

R. Barber et al/The Lancet 2017

Health care quality and availability improved globally from 1990 to 2015, but the gap between the haves and the have-nots widened in those 25 years, researchers report online May 18 in the Lancet.

As an approximate measure of citizens’ access to quality health care, an international team of researchers analyzed mortality rates for 32 diseases and injuries that are typically not fatal when effective medical care is available. The team summarized this data as a number on a scale from zero to 100, called the Healthcare Access and Quality Index, for 195 countries and territories.

The researchers color-coded the results on world maps.

healthcare map 1990
CODE RED Overall, most countries have seen access to quality health care rise since 1990 when the map tilted red, indicating lower levels of global care. R. Barber et al/The Lancet 2017

Places with the highest scores in 2015 include Canada, Australia, Japan and much of Europe, while some African countries as well as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea have the lowest scores. The countries with the greatest improvement since 1990 include South Korea, Peru and China.

The growing gap between countries with the highest and lowest scores suggests that health care inequalities due to geography may be on the rise, the authors say.

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