Global inequalities in access to cardiovascular health care: our greatest challenge

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Dec 2;52(23):1817-1825. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2008.08.049.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) was the leading cause of death globally in 2005, responsible for 17.5 million deaths, more than 80% of which occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). In these regions, CVD occurs at a much younger age than in high-income countries, thereby contributing disproportionately to lost potential years of healthy life as well as lost economic productivity. Many effective interventions for CVD prevention and management are now affordable for all but the very poorest countries, but large treatment gaps still exist because of poor prescribing practices, limited availability of medicines, and lack of appropriately skilled health care providers. Despite the increasing awareness of the growing epidemic of CVD in LMIC, this public health priority has received little attention from those who determine the international health agenda. Although the burden of CVD is already enormous in developing countries, there exists a window of opportunity to prevent the epidemic reaching its full potential magnitude. This requires the rapid deployment of strategies already proven to be effective in high-income countries. Such strategies need to be tailored for LMIC for them to be affordable, effective, and accessible to disadvantaged groups and the burgeoning middle classes. Ideally, the control of CVD in these countries would involve a dual approach in which evidence-based clinical strategies for CVD prevention and treatment are complemented by evidence-based population level strategies. We propose that upgrading primary health care services is a central requirement for the control of the CVD epidemics facing the developing world.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiology / standards
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / economics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • China
  • Economics, Medical
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Global Health
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Public Health
  • Rural Population
  • Treatment Outcome
  • World Health Organization