WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 35-37

Access to health services by informal sector workers in Bangladesh

World Health Organization Country Office for Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Correspondence Address:
Valeria de Oliveira Cruz
World Health Organization Country Office for Bangladesh, Dhaka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.255347

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According to the constitution of Bangladesh, health is a right and, in 2012, initial work towards universal health coverage was marked by introduction of a health-care financing strategy. However, for 2016, Bangladesh’s domestic general government health expenditure was only 0.42% of gross domestic product, making it one of the lowest-spending countries in the world, with 72% of current health expenditure coming from out-of-pocket spending. One factor that is key to the challenge of providing universal health coverage in Bangladesh is the large proportion of the population who work in the informal sector – an estimated 51.7 million people or 85.1% of the labour force in 2017. Most workers engaged in the informal sector lack job security, social benefits and legal protection. The evidence base on the health needs and health-seeking behaviours of this large population is sparse. The government has recognized that increased efforts are needed to ensure that the country’s notable successes in improving maternal, neonatal and child health need to be expanded to cover the full range of health services to the whole population, and specifically the more marginalized and impoverished sectors of society. In addition to the universal need to increase funding and to improve the availability and quality of primary health care, workers in the informal sector need to be targeted through an explicit mechanism, with enhanced budgetary allocation to health facilities serving these communities. Importantly, there is a clear need to build an evidence base to inform policies that seek to ensure that informal sector workers have greater access to quality health services.

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