On the sidelines of the 68th World Health Assembly, the five Health Minister from BRICS countries will meet in Geneva on Tuesday.
The BRICS ministers will “discuss plan of activities for a Russian chairmanship year in the area of public health,” Oleg Salagai, Russian Health Ministry spokesperson said Tuesday.
The meeting is a precursor to the BRICS health summit in October in Moscow.
The BRICS combined GDP grew 300 per cent in the last decade as opposed to 60 per cent growth registered by the developed world.
Yet as citizens in these emerging markets grow older and wealthier, they are also burdened by a rise in pollution, smoking, obesity and other public-health hazards, creating a soaring demand for quality medical care.
Public healthcare systems in countries like India, China, South Africa and Brazil, are struggling.
South Africa spent more than 8.5 per cent of GDP on healthcare in 2012, higher than the 5 per cent recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for a country of its socioeconomic status, yet performed worse than comparable nations.
Apart from being lowest among BRICS, India’s health expenditure is lower than military expenditure. India spends about 1.3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health while it spends 2.4 per cent on military defense.
In a setback to efforts to provide affordable healthcare to some of India’s poorest people, the Indian government has decided to cut 20 per cent of its health budget.
More than 60 billion rupees ($948 million) has been slashed from their budgetary allocation for the year ending 31 March 2015, said officials from the Indian Ministry of Health in December last year. The move could severely tax government-run hospitals and clinics that are invariably over-stretched and under-resourced.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring Chinese government has poured billions of pounds into healthcare reform in recent years, and the system has improved accordingly. Currently, 99 per cent of the rural population gets some kind of insurance, up from 21 per cent a decade ago. China plans to roll out universal coverage by 2020.