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U.S., Rest Of World Can Learn From Rwanda’s Success In Developing Its Health System

“Amidst the barrage of stories about failing states and civil wars that characterize the dour American media coverage of the developing world, the reinvention of Rwanda offers hope,” Chicago-based writer Neal Emery states in an opinion piece in the Atlantic, adding, “Over the last 10 years, Rwanda’s health system development has led to the most dramatic improvements of health in history.” He writes, “Since the genocide with which its name is still synonymous in the United States, Rwanda has doubled its life expectancy and now offers a replicable model for delivery of high quality health care with limited resources.” He continues, “The rest of the world, wealthy countries as well as poor, can learn from Rwanda’s rapid rise,” adding, “Rwanda achieves exceptional results not from how much money they spend on health, but from how they spend it.”

Emery cites a recent article in BMJ in which “the authors identified a series of interconnected factors that contributed to the country’s turnaround.” According to Emery, these include the development of Vision 2020, a centralized government plan “to develop economically into a middle-income country over the next two decades”; coordination between government sectors; good use of foreign aid “to build a robust system of primary care”; and the provision of universal health insurance, among other factors. “While the United States still exceeds Rwanda in most traditional health metrics (such as life expectancy), and its hospitals and medical care surpass those in Rwanda, U.S. health outcomes still falter because too many patients fall through the cracks,” he writes, concluding, “Innovations in resource-squeezed places like Rwanda give hope that health care can be both equitable and affordable” (2/20).