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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Tour Will Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

US secretary of state to visit 5 countries in the Middle East, South Asia in bid to strengthen economic and security ties, ease concerns over deal with Tehran More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs