Crowd funding: Can it help us achieve Universal Health Coverage?


 By Dr. Elizabeth Ekirapa-Kiracho


ekkyThis evening, I attended   an interesting debate on crowd funding. “The mobilizing of funds by individuals to meet a specific health need that is often life threatening and too expensive for the patient to afford.”    It was a very interesting debate where two of the panelists shared    their successful experiences of raising funds for a bone marrow transplant for a child with Sickle cells and to build a cancer unit. While a senior planner from the Ministry of Health gave their opinion about how crowd funding contributes to meeting the cost of health care.

This was one of the sessions at the Symposium on Health Financing for Universal Health Cov erage in Low and Middle Income Countries’. The three-day exciting event is held at Serena Hotel, Kampala. It has drawn participation from countries including Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Jordan, United Kingdom, USA, Belgium, Ghana and Nigeria, among others.It was clear that private funding -when well mobilized- can make a significant contribution to improving health care. The Rotary team has been holding cancer runs and was able to build a cancer unit at Nsambya hospital through this effort.

It was agreed that as a country we need to invest in developing the health care system so that it can treat the critical conditions that we are not able to treat locally in Uganda rather than continuing to fund a few individuals abroad. For example the incidence of sickle cell disease is very high, and bone marrow transplants could save many of these funds but we must determine as a country to focus on doing this.  We could also partner with neighbouring countries to build a centre of excellence for sickle cells

Crowd funding can eventually lead to donor fatigue -people will get tired of contributing. So crowd funding should only be a short and not a long term solution to the health care problems of Uganda. Long term goal should be to invest in health to provide better care to Ugandans internally.

Uganda spent approximately 2.8 Million shillings on care abroad over three years. This money most probably benefited a few connected individuals and not   the common man who also   had similar problems. My personal opinion was that this expenditure using public funds should be disallowed. So that every important person who gets funding to go abroad feels the pain and suffering that other Ugandans go through. Perhaps this can help us focus on improving our health care system.

It was also noted that crowding does not benefit the poor who have no social networks, no connections, no social media, no social capital.  They suffer and die silently. What can we do for them?  How can we help achieve Universal health care coverage   for this group?  Insurance is probably one of the solutions we need to   invest in moving beyond crowd funding!

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