Why development matters for health systems: Lessons from Bangladesh

Among its immediate neighbours, Bangladesh has the highest life expectancy (68.3 years), the lowest infant mortality rate (42 per 1000 live births) and one of the lowest maternal mortality ratios (194 per 100 000 live births). These health indicators show the remarkable progress that Bangladesh has made since the country’s independence in 1971, and all despite relatively low public health expenditure and a significant gap in human resources – there is an estimated lack of around 800 000 doctors and nurses.

This apparent paradox is the focus of a recent six-part series in The Lancet that was launched in the UK in March 2014. It explores how traditional developmental pillars, such as gender equality and poverty reduction and new types of relationship between government, NGOs and the private sector, have contributed to these impressive health gains.

Mushtaque Chowdhury and Abbas Bhuiya, two of the authors involved in the series, spoke at a seminar jointly organised by the Institute of Development Studies and Future Health Systems to launch the series. Mushtaque Chowdhury is the Vice Chair and Interim Executive Director of BRAC, an international development organisation based in Bangladesh. He recording this short video with his thoughts on the series:

Abbas Bhuiya is the Deputy Executive Director of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), which is an international health research institution located in Dhaka. He had the following to say on the series:

The Lancet Series on Bangladesh

The main papers in the series are as follows:

Related resources

Kate Hawkins, who manages communications and research uptake for the REACHOUT programme, wrote a blog on the seminar and the Bangladesh series, which concludes that given Bangladesh’s past performance in mobilising a plural and diverse set of health care actors, we have much to be hopeful for. The REACHOUT programme is an international research project helping to understand and develop the role of close-to-community providers of health care in preventing, diagnosing, and treating major illnesses and health conditions in rural and urban areas in Africa and Asia. Sabina Rashid, the co-Principle Investigator for the REACHOUT Bangladesh team is an author of one the Lancet papers on child survival.

All the resources on the HEART website related to Bangladesh can be viewed here.

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