Health is directly related to economic progress and sustainability goals since a country’s development agenda depend on its health status. According to McCartney et al. (2019), health is a significant aspect of overall growth as it impacts people’s economic, social, cultural, and political lives. To maintain high health status, preventive and curative services are provided, resulting in improved quality of life. Despite efforts to enhance healthcare, disparities occur in racial, structural, and social differences. Ethnic and racial minorities are subject to a lesser quality of care compared with majority groups. Similarly, morbidity and mortality rates resulting from chronic diseases are higher among patients of minority groups. Efforts to examine and address these disparities, as well as inequalities, are necessary for society to achieve healthcare goals and equality. Health disparities in Nigeria are a result of the inaccessibility of medical services caused by the lack of a comprehensive healthcare cover and income disparities among the citizens due to regional differences and social classes.
Disparities in the Context of Developing Nations
In developing countries, healthcare expenditure depends on accessibility factors, which are the cost and the proximity to the facilities and health-seeking behavior. According to Oleribe et al. (2019), most African countries do not meet the elementary requirements for decent healthcare systems due to socio-political and socio-economic challenges, such as poor governance. Nigeria, an African state on the Gulf of Guinea, is one of the countries with inequitable healthcare distribution. Despite the formulation of the National Health Insurance Scheme, a federally financed social security arrangement, families pay over 60% of the total medical costs (Amu et al., 2018). Following unequal income distribution and high poverty levels, households with a low-income resort to prayers, visit unqualified clinicians, or try self-medication. Considering the present healthcare system and acknowledging that a healthy populace is valuable to third-world countries, such as Nigeria, it is crucial to understand that the relevant sectors play significant roles in addressing the social determinants of health.
Determinants of Health Systems
Insufficient healthcare amenities, as well as practitioners in Nigeria, are fundamentally the most dominant barriers to ensuring the accessibility of medical services. However, efforts to curb such barriers have continued to be unsuccessful due to structural bias, racism, and social inequities. Structural bias is reflected in the case where one social group, compared to other coexisting groups, is disadvantaged due to strata that exist in the society.
The conceptualization of philosophies varies across cultural groups within Nigeria. In the healthcare context, culture is referred to as shared beliefs and practices directly related to health-connected behavior, and it influences the adoption of specific conduct in terms of seeking medical services. These factors can impact health outcomes in society as they impact individuals’ principles with respect to medical practices and beliefs regarding healthcare and well-being.
While racial differences are not pronounced in Nigerian society, they are fundamental to examining structural biases and health disparities among the community members. Considerations for racial background entail ethnicity in the Nigerian context. Nationals from different ethnic or racial groups are less likely to receive equal health care due to the significant differences in geographical health facilities. These racial or ethnic variations in health are explained by the genetic model, which uses biological assumptions. This theory implies that genes determine the health outcomes of an individual. As a result, some groups are neglected as they are perceived to have strong genes (Amu et al., 2018). However, scientific findings prove race to be a social concept instead of biological attributes, given that pandemics, as well as other health challenges, affect all people regardless of their background.
Challenges Facing Achievement of Health Equity in Nigeria
Despite the Nigerian government’s interventions, the locals’ access to medical services remains low, and the sector faces challenges ranging from household to community levels. Some of the issues causing difficulties in achieving healthcare equity in the country include the lack of human resources. Notably, all medical components depend on labor to manage, which is one of Nigeria’s fundamental insufficient lacking. Health practitioners in Nigeria opt to work in developed economies where economic conditions are favorable. As a result, regional variations in the healthcare workforce are unavoidable, with some regions being neglected or assigned few or incompetent personnel.
Disparities also exist due to inadequate financial support for healthcare systems, and it is critical to obtain relevant medical resources. As a result, financially underprivileged people, who form the majority of the population, hardly have access to their desired facilities. Instead, they are disadvantaged as they cannot afford the treatment costs insurance cover. The seemingly low medical costs can be unavailable to low-income earners, discouraging them from seeking critical care services as they lack enough money to pay the bills. Even though the federal government funds the National Health Insurance Scheme, financial support is less than half of what the citizens spend on health care. Unfortunately, the families covered by the policy are from low backgrounds; hence, they cannot afford to pay and instead, turn to other traditional means of health care.
Language barriers and means of communication affect the quality of health care, as well. For example, Nigeria consists of several states with different linguistic groups, which imply a stratification in terms of regional or language attributes. Patients from one area are less likely to visit a physician from another geographical or ethnic background as some of the citizens may not have the necessary communication skills. Such barriers affect diagnosis, as well as medical care outcomes, hence, dissatisfaction among patients. Notably, those using professional interpreters, who are not readily available in Nigeria, are equally content with health care services provided as those who use bilinguals. On the other hand, patients using non-professional interpreters, such as nurses, are less contented with the services they received.
In conclusion, Nigeria’s health inequality and disparities are shaped by public policies, structures, and norms. Health inequities are the results of individual choices or random incidences, some of which are determined by society or the government. These variations are caused by the historic and ongoing interaction of discriminatory policies and standards. Since health behavior can be influenced in the long run, it is not among the major determinants for healthcare disparities. Nigeria is divided into geopolitical zones, therefore, understanding cultural and ethnic variances in health is fundamental to creating health care equity. Besides, it is necessary to examine the extent to which discrimination and racial bias impact health inequalities and develop strategic goals, as well as structures, devoid of socio-economic biases.
Amu, H., Dickson, K., Kumi-Kyereme, A., & Darteh, E. (2018). Understanding variations in health insurance coverage in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania: Evidence from demographic and health surveys. PLOS ONE, 13(8), e0201833. Web.
McCartney, G., Hearty, W., Arnot, J., Popham, F., Cumbers, A., & McMaster, R. (2019). Impact of political economy on population health: A systematic review of reviews. American Journal of Public Health, 109(6), e1-e12. Web.
Oleribe, O. O., Momoh, J., Uzochukwu, B. S., Mbofana, F., Adebiyi, A., Barbera, T., & Taylor-Robinson, S. D. (2019). Identifying key challenges facing healthcare systems in Africa and potential solutions. International Journal of General Medicine, 12, 395.