News / Health

Austerity Seriously Affecting Health in Europe, North America

Medical staff take part in a protest rally against austerity measures in Athens, Greece, April 17, 2013.
Medical staff take part in a protest rally against austerity measures in Athens, Greece, April 17, 2013.
Michael Scaturro
Austerity is having a serious effect on health in both Europe and North America - that's according to a team of researchers at U.S. and European universities. Rates of suicide, depression and infectious diseases are up, and even malaria, eradicated from most Western countries decades ago, has staged a comeback in Greece.  

Experts from leading U.S. and European universities compiled data for the World Health Organization's annual report on "health policy responses to the financial crises in Europe and the U.S." The report won't be released until September, but the researchers, alarmed at how much budget cuts have affected Greece, have begun speaking out.

"Greece is an example of perhaps the worst case of austerity leading to public health disasters," said David Stuckler of Oxford University, one of the study's authors. He said International Monetary Fund and European Union austerity measures imposed on the Greeks are having a devastating impact on their health.

"After mosquito spraying programs were cut, we've seen a return of malaria, which the country has kept under control for the past four decades.  New HIV infections have jumped more than 200 percent," he said.

Stuckler said increasing intravenous drug use among the young, and a lack of funds for clean needle exchange programs, are responsible for the spike in new HIV infections.

While southern Europe is dealing with shortages of medicine and healthcare services, northern European countries like Germany say they have more health care than they need.

"We are discussing whether we have too many beds, too many hospitals, too many procedures," said Klaus-Dirk Henke of Berlin's Technical University, one of the project's researchers. He said that countries in northern Europe, like France, Luxembourg, and Belgium, have actually seen their health care systems improve during the economic crisis, due to targeted increases in health care spending. He's calling on EU politicians to address the widening health care gap between the north and south of Europe.

"Northern countries in the European Union should help more and subsidize the southern countries, and this is what we are doing, at least in regard to the euro crisis," said Henke. "The credits that go now to the south - this is money to support them and help them to get a fair economic situation again. The unemployment rate in Spain is about 50 percent for young people - this is incredible, we have to do something about it."

But it's not just Europeans who are experiencing more negative health care outcomes in this crisis. The U.S. is, too.

David Stuckler said, "I should point out that on the sequester: cuts to the women and children's health program, which provides food to pregnant women, and has been shown to prevent infant mortality - this is one of the programs facing significant cuts. Another is the Centers for Disease Control, which was a great protector during meningitis outbreaks, and outbreaks of West Nile Virus, which has been seen in California, and most recently in Dallas, Texas."

Stuckler said over five million Americans lost their health insurance during the "Great Recession," adding to an already large pool of uninsured.  

He says Iceland's reaction to its own massive bank collapses and economic troubles could serve as an example. That country's politicians put austerity to a vote.

"Ninety-three percent of the Icelandic people voted against steep budget cuts to finance bank bailouts," Stuckler said. "The economy recovered, and by investing to increase health spending in a time of crisis, as well as providing support to the unemployed and to people who lost homes, we in fact saw health improve."

Stuckler and his co-authors are calling for stimulus spending to be directed towards health care programs. They say money used this way is rapidly absorbed by overstretched systems and quickly provides jobs and valuable services.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid