Last year highlighted the inequalities in access to treatment and healthcare around the world. Many countries struggle with avoidable illnesses and conditions that could in different circumstances be managed and treated. Low-income populations in developing countries suffer the most from health inequities, and according to WHO at least half of the world’s population still do not have full access to essential health services. The theme of this year’s World Health Day is “Building a fairer, healthier world”, which is why we wanted to take a brief look of some of the things that affect health inequities, and what our company is doing to contribute to a more healthy and equal world.
Social determinants of health
The social determinants of health, or the SDH, have a big impact on health outcomes. Some studies have deemed the influence of SDH even more significant than health care or lifestyle. The SDH include aspects like income, education, food insecurity, access to decent quality healthcare services, and housing and other environmental factors.
In addition to their influence on health outcomes, the SHD have an even bigger influence on health inequities. There are large, unfair differences between countries in access to treatment, screening, and diagnostics services. And these differences are not only evident between countries, but also between different populations living in the same country.
Providing quality health care services in remote or low-income areas has its challenges; the environment and hygienic conditions vary greatly and access to medical equipment or laboratories might be limited. For example, the unavailability of health care resources and delayed diagnoses have contributed to a very high rate of oral cancer mortality amongst low-income populations in India.
Addressing SDH is paramount in reducing the deep-rooted health inequities between and within countries and populations. New, innovative, and cost-effective health care solutions are needed to make health care, screening and diagnostic services more equal to everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Working together to build a more equal future
Creating equal opportunities for disease screening is an important part of our company’s long term goals. Since the beginning we have strived to develop our method so that they can be applied to fit the needs of developing economies, while also keeping the cost of our tests exceptionally low. Through our ongoing research projects in India and Ghana, we hope to prove our screening method’s ability to detect oral cancer and malaria from biological samples, like saliva.
In Ghana we work together with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research to determine our E-TRF–method’s capability in screening for malaria using saliva samples. Malaria is an infectious, life-threatening disease transmitted through mosquitoes and caused by parasites. Africa is the most affected continent with over 94% of the world’s malaria cases and deaths. Our collaboration with the NMIMR is still in its early stages, but in the near future we hope to validate our method’s capability as a malaria screening test to help manage malaria by providing accurate, cost-efficient and easily accessible malaria screening tests.
In India our research focus is on oral cancer screening. The oral cancer burden in India is very significant and it mostly affects young working-age men and women. Lower-income populations are more likely to develop oral cancer and they often get diagnosed when it is already too late. Through our collaboration with the Public Health Foundation of India we hope to develop an affordable and accurate oral cancer screening test that could be used in population-level screenings to try to combat the high morbidity and mortality rates associated with oral cancer in India.
We want to take part in building future solutions and improving early detection of diseases globally. The conditions you were born in should not matter as much as they do when it comes to healthcare. We are lucky to have an opportunity to take part in making a concrete difference in health care inequities by developing screening tests that will be accessible to people all over the world, equally.
You can read more about World Health Day and this year’s theme here: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2021