The practice of modern medicine

: 3/21

In the developing countries. The developing countries differ from one another culturally, socially, and economically, but what they have in common is a low average income per person, with large percentages of their populations living at or below the poverty level. Although most have a small elite class, living mainly in the cities, the largest part of their populations live in rural areas. Urban regions in developing and some developed countries in the mid- and late 20th century have developed pockets of slums, which are growing because of an influx of rural peoples. For lack of even the simplest measures, vast numbers of urban and rural poor die each year of preventable and curable diseases, often associated with poor hygiene and sanitation, impure water supplies, malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and chronic preventable infections. The effect of these and other deprivations is reflected by the finding that in the 1980s the life expectancy at birth for men and women was about one-third less in Africa than it was in Europe; similarly, infant mortality in Africa was about eight times greater than in Europe. The extension of primary health-care services is therefore a high priority in the developing countries.

The developing countries themselves, lacking the proper resources, have often been unable to generate or implement the plans necessary to provide required services at the village or urban poor level. It has, however, become clear that the system of health care that is appropriate for one country is often unsuitable for another. Research has established that effective health care is related to the special circumstances of the individual country, its people, culture, ideology, and economic and natural resources.

The rising costs of providing health care have influenced a trend, especially among the developing nations to promote services that employ less highly trained primary health-care personnel who can be distributed more widely in order to reach the largest possible proportion of the community. The principal medical problems to be dealt with in the developing world include undernutrition, infection, gastrointestinal disorders, and respiratory complaints. which themselves may be the result of poverty, ignorance, and poor hygiene. For the most part, these are easy to identity and to treat. Furthermore, preventive measures are usually simple and cheap. Neither treatment nor prevention requires extensive professional training: in most cases they can be dealt with adequately by the "primary health worker," a term that includes all nonprofessional health personnel.

In the developed countries. Those concerned with providing health care in the developed countries face a different set of problems. The diseases so prevalent in the Third World have, for the most part, been eliminated or are readily treatable. Many of the adverse environmental conditions and public health hazards have been conquered. Social services of varying degrees of adequacy have been provided. Public funds can be called upon to support the cost of medical care, and there are a variety of private insurance plans available to the consumer. Nevertheless, the funds that a government can devote to health care are limited and the cost of modern medicine continues to increase thus putting adequate medical services beyond the reach of many. Adding to the expense of modern medical practices is the increasing demand for greater funding of health education and preventive measures specifically directed toward the poor.


In many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries, people get their primary health care, or first-contact care, where available at all, from nonmedically qualified personnel; these cadres of medical auxiliaries are being trained in increasing numbers to meet overwhelming needs among rapidly growing populations. Even among the comparatively wealthy countries of the world, containing in all a much smaller percentage of the world's population, escalation in the costs of health services and in the cost of training a physician has precipitated some movement toward reappraisal of the role of the medical doctor in the delivery of first-contact care.

: 11/11/2009