By: Sophia Nappo
Belize is located in the Northern hemisphere above the equator. It is a small country in Central America, bordered on the North by Mexico, the South, and West by Guatemala, and to the East by the Caribbean Sea. It has an area of approximately 23,000 square kilometers. The capital, Belmopan, is located in the center of the country.
The healthcare system of Belize is comprised of both public and private medical services. Under public healthcare, most Belizeans are entitled to free or low-cost healthcare at Government-run hospitals and clinics around the country. However, the majority of funding is directed towards healthcare services in the capital city. Private medical services are also available in Belize, however, patients are required to pay a fee for services.
Corruption with the sector of public health can mean life or death, for certain individuals. Poor people are usually worst affected. Some examples include medical staff charging unofficial fees to attend to patients. They may demand bribes for medication which should be free. Or they may let patients who bribe them queue-jump. Corruption also costs lives when fake or adulterated medications are sold to health services.
Without proper checks from regulators, public health funds can easily disappear. World Bank surveys show that in some countries, up to 80 percent of non-salary health funds never reach local facilities. Sometimes, ministers and hospital administrators siphon millions of dollars from health budgets. This distorts policy and denies people of hospitals, medicines, and qualified staff. Stolen funds also hamper efforts to beat major health challenges, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Upon, spending a great of time over the summer in Belize, I, along with others began to notice heightened forms of corruption. For example, the town of San Pedro has become riddled with many health and environmental problems, a steady increase in alcohol consumption, an ever-increasing crime rate, high inflation, roads in disrepair, and deplorable housing conditions for the general workforce population who keep the tourism industry going. These citizens are dependent on the government for housing, healthcare, education, security and welfare, and face increasing levels of poverty and inequality. All of these rising challenges have placed a negative view on hospitals, clinics and medical professionals all over the country, causing Belizean citizens to opt out of receiving medical assistance, due to their lack of trust within the government. This not only raises, the chances of infections, but it also lowers the countries life expectancy rate. In relation to other countries, Belize has a low expectancy rate of around 67 years, the lowest in all of Central America, and most of the world.
(Here I am in the white top, with some fellow coworkers in the lab at La Lola Luz Hospital and Research Lab in Belize)
Through my time in Belize, I conducted a research project to gain a better understanding of the stigma surrounding the healthcare system within the country. Featured in my website below (click on health care in blue), under the research tab, I analyzed data regarding the resources Belizean’s have access to.
Whether or not we know it, we all apply the principles of bioethics to our lives to determine if actions are right or wrong, Through this website, I will be exploring the ways health care is offered in Belize, and what some of its citizen’s viewpoints are regarding the matter.
This data was collected during my time in Belize, and analyzed through the lens of a bioethicist (featured on the website).
Upon conducting research, and analyzing my data with regards to bioethical questions, I wanted to develop a solution to the problem by utilizing technology at hand. Through the development of my app, I focused on educating other individuals on the lack of support in the health care system in Belize. I also strived to develop a tool that will also become a source for finding different health care opportunities within the country. The citizens of Belize, as well as tourists, will be better equipped as this app will provide them will access to all of the resources they need, as well as a page where they could diagnose their own illness as well. I believe that providing citizens with access to research, and furthering their knowledge will catalyze change. The app is available for viewing if you click the blue, underlined “Belize Healthcare.”
This video was developed by our medical focus program during our summer in Belize, with a partnership with the ministry of health in order to raise awareness of the existing forms of medical treatment within the country. By bringing awareness to this issue through the development of this video as well as my app, I believe that as a community we will catalyze change.
Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me, if you could please take a moment to fill out the feedback form embedded under the more tab of my app, that would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!