03 Jan 2012 00:30
Unlike many other Latin American countries, Guatemala is still at an early stage of its demographic and epidemiological transitions with a young, rapidly growing, and essentially rural population.
In Latin America, Guatemala is one of the worst performers in terms of health outcomes. Compared to the rest of the region, the country has a high infant mortality rate and low life expectancy at birth.
Major causes of death include treatable and contagious diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia, cholera, malnutrition, and tuberculosis. For a large section of the Guatemalans indeed, access to healthcare services is difficult. This is mostly due to both supply- and demand-side constraints, the latter being particularly important in rural areas.
However, some reforms have been made in the health sector. On the institutional side, health is now one of the pilot ministries that work on decentralizing financial management under the Integrated System for Health Care (SIAS program). Public spending has also shifted toward preventive care, a key measure to treat the health problems of the poor.
Despite these efforts though, no significant improvement has been observed in spending and health outcomes. On top of that, the targeting of public expenditure on health remains inappropriate (disproportionate?) and mostly benefits the highest quintiles. Based on the type of facility, public spending on hospitals is by far the more regressive.