Scarcity in abundance? Spatial inequalities in Rheumatoid Arthritis in a health system with financial equity

BMC Rheumatol. 2023 Jul 11;7(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s41927-023-00332-z.


Background: This paper estimates spatial inequalities of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in Colombia and explores correlates of those disparities from a health system perspective.

Methods: We apply descriptive epidemiology to healthcare administrative records for estimation of crude and age-standardized prevalences, and health systems thinking for identification of barriers to effective access in RA diagnosis.

Results: The crude and age-standardized RA prevalence for Colombia in 2018 is estimated at 0.43% and 0.36%, respectively. In the contributory regime, the binding constraint is effective access to rheumatologists in rural and sparsely populated areas; this constraint in workforce affects service delivery, and ultimately comes from the lack of a differentiated model for effective provision of healthcare in those areas (governance).

Conclusions: There are opportunities for implementation of public health policies and health system interventions that would lead to a better identification of RA patients and the subsequent more precise estimation of RA prevalence, and most importantly, to reduce exposition to risk factors and accurate diagnosis and treatment of RA patients.

Keywords: Colombia; Governance; Health system; Rheumatoid arthritis; Service delivery; Spatial inequalities; Workforce.