Guatemala: the economic burden of illness and health system implications

Health Policy. 2011 May;100(2-3):159-66. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.11.011. Epub 2010 Dec 18.


Objectives: To assess the economic burden of ill health in Guatemala, the characteristics of Guatemala's health system that potentially explain this burden, and to identify policies to help ameliorate it.

Methods: Data from the 2000 and 2006 Living Standard Measurement Surveys are used to assess levels of financial burden from ill health, along with information on health system characteristics of Guatemala and recent reform experiences of several middle- and low-income countries.

Results: Despite some gains over the period from 2000 to 2006, there continues to be both a high level and inequitable distribution of financial burden associated with ill health in Guatemala. Low levels of insurance coverage, a heavy concentration of the uninsured among the less well off and rural populations, as well as their low levels of access to public services are important drivers of out of pocket spending on health. Households with older members also appear to be at increased risk for out of pocket payments.

Conclusions: High levels of catastrophic health spending and poverty co-exist with significant economic inequality and poverty in Guatemala. With health system features and a large informal sector similar to many other developing countries, recent international experience can provide useful lessons to help Guatemala devise innovative financing and payment mechanisms to address these concerns.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics*
  • Female
  • Guatemala
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Insurance, Health
  • Male
  • Poverty