Chapter 3: Health and Developing Nations

In this chapter we learn that the accompanist is not faking his health. That he is actually diabetic, and his body is reacting the way it is because he hasn’t received his dose of insulin. This made me think about the medical access people in South America have, versus other nations, like the accompanist’s country of Sweden. I looked up how many people in Sweden have been diagnosed on average per year, the number is around 450,000 people. About 3,000 people die every year in Sweden to diabetes. About 145,000 individuals are estimated to be undiagnosed. In Latin America, close to 40 million individuals are reported to have diabetes. The actual number is far larger, as it is estimated only 50% are reported. This happens to be a major issue with diabetes treatment, the fact that many people don’t even know they have it until it’s too late. There is also the issue of the economic effect of having diabetes. The average medical expenditures were determined to be about 2.3 times the average citizen. This is a big problem for developing nations and poorer communities already struggling to make ends. The Swedish, even though having a high number of diabetics, happen to have the best healthcare system on the planet to deal with diabetes. This is because Sweden has devoted a lot of resources to tackle the ‘epidemic’, and have developed a world class registry system for it. It is “based on 28 defined indicators and areas, including prevention, case finding, range and reach of services, access to treatment and care, procedures and outcomes”. Latin America does not have adequate access to the National Diabetic Registry nor are they all that connected to the greater scientific community focusing on researching better treatments/cures. In fact only 7 of 28 EU nations actively use the NDR. Area’s where financial problems hit lost their ‘enthusiasm’ towards diabetic research, so it isn’t unusual that a developing country wouldn’t pay much attention to it either.

I switched gears a bit and wondered what could be causing this epidemic, which happens to be a problem that rose sharply in the last two decades. I came across a lot of research about the effect of development in poorer nations on its citizen’s health. It seems as though the road to technological prosperity isn’t without its dangers, especially when a nation shifts within a generation. Since Latin America has been slowly catching up with the rest of the world, it has adopted its diets, and some of our modern inconveniences being a result of said diets. Sweden also happens to have an Obesity problem, however, they are actually combatting it quite well. Most likely due to its modernity and access to resources. Latin America happens to be the most obese of the developing nations. Peru, most likely location of the hostage crisis, happens to have the highest density of fast food chains per square mile than any other nation on earth. Chile, one of the greatest exporters of fruit, doesn’t even eat much of it. Over half of their diets consists of processed goods, contributing to the epidemic. The reasoning behind this is the fact that fast food corporation are actually taking advantage of the status symbol that is fast food. While here, fast food may be viewed as being quite terrible for someone to eat, people in Latin America view it as a status symbol, that it is ‘cool’, and that they are eating like people in developed countries do.

I then researched new studies and research leading to better treatment of this epidemic. While there is no cure, there have been some breakthroughs in recent years. The FDA have recently administered a drug called Farxiga, which works by preventing the kidney from reabsorbing glucose. This increases the excretion of glucose and reduces blood sugar levels, effectively causing the patient to urinate excess sugars. There has been ongoing research on oral administration of insulin called polyalkylcyanoacrylate nanocapsules. I’m also sure people have seen the new commercials for testing blood-glucose levels that don’t require your fingers being pricked. Whether or not this is available to Latin Americans is unknown.

I’ve come across several political changes to help combat this issue too. Enrique Jacoby of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), which is a subdivision on WHO, has stated that several Latin American countries have agreed to put regulations on their citizens diets. They want to improve the health in schools, by providing more access to clean drinking water and to limit the sale of unhealthy products. They are also having kids go outside and exercise more, which is an issue in itself in cities prone to crime and corruption. These nations are Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. However, lobbying from mega corporations have hindered a lot of their work, as laws passed on junk food advertising in Brazil and Peru were negated on constitutional grounds.



5 thoughts on “Chapter 3: Health and Developing Nations

  1. sariegel says:

    Your research into diabetes and health in developing nations covers such a broad range of interesting topics. You compared Sweden with Latin American nations and found that diabetes was still a problem in Sweden but more treatable. You speculated that this would most likely be due to Sweden’s advanced technology. I think that’s definitely a part of it. It would be interesting to add the United States to your research. The US, while a developed nation with access to various medical technologies, probably has a greater percentage of population than Sweden that cannot afford these treatments. Sweden’s healthcare system is fairly different from our own due to governmental structure. Looking at what role the governmental structure of a nation plays in these health issues could be another progressed avenue of research. For instance, you also mentioned that certain dietary regulations have been met with intense lobbying from corporations, which has been detrimental to health interventions. This could be tied back to the idea of free markets and structure of governments.

    The point you make about Chile being one of the largest exporters of fruit, though this doesn’t translate into diet, could be a good starting point. What is the reason for this? Is it for larger economical gain that more fruit is being transported? That would add another level to the issue developing nations face – do they enforce healthier eating or gain more profit while getting more involved in global trade? Are there any public policies that could be enacted to solve this dilemma, not just apply temporary solutions?


  2. katelynzander says:

    It is very sad that the accompanist dies from something that could have been treated so easily. Diabetes is a disease that is continually growing from year to year all over the world. I really enjoyed how you decided to narrow your search of diabetes to the places in the book, Latin America and Sweden. Making comparisons between these two countries allows us to understand the places in our book. It does make the accompanist’s death ironic though, since Sweden is the best at treating this particular disease.
    The corruption that is within the massive fast food corporations around the world is what really spoke to me in your research. They are more concerned with the wealth of their brand rather than the health of the world or the success of a country. Companies know the demographics of the areas in which they place their locations and chose to prey on the weak and poor such as Latin America. Fast food companies like, McDonalds, KFC and Burger King have been such a part of the American culture that they now use this against “skinny” countries to make the point, “Look! You can eat like the Americans”. In turn, making millions for the company and leaving the area in bad health. There needs to be a moral justice that is integrated into these companies or the world is going to be in a lot of trouble. I think it would be interesting to research the ratio of fast food companies per capita within developing countries to the ratio of more developed areas.


  3. dgromels says:

    When you brought up this topic in class, you definitely introduced one of the most thought-provoking subjects we have discussed this year, and I think several people could write different research papers just based off of the questions explored in your single blog post. I have always been fascinated by the fact that some of the world’s wealthiest countries are also the unhealthiest, which seems counterintuitive. Your post left me with feeling frustrated with food injustice, much like Katelyn who expressed her feelings about the immorality of fast food chains that exploit the relative poverty of people living in Latin American nations. It seems that these corporations should have a moral responsibility to promote healthy lifestyles when their products are so popular and therefore have a large impact on the health in countries like Peru.
    However, I don’t think we should condemn fast food companies for selling goods that people are willing to buy. The obsession with fast food in these countries likely stems not only from their perception of the food as a status symbol, but also from the natural human craving for high-fat foods, which makes this issue apply in developed countries as well. It calls to mind the restrictions put on soft drinks in New York last year, known as the Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule, which drew heavy criticism as an overstep by the government and was deemed outside the scope of regulatory authority by the New York Supreme Court. In my political philosophy class, we discussed the possibility of enacting excise taxes on fast food in order to disincentivize unhealthy eating, but I feel this measure would only hurt the people who buy fast food most – the lower class – while making a negligible impact on the rate of consumption, which only hurts the consumer, not the company. If we were to discourage fast food corporations from building franchises in low-income areas through high taxes or other means, we would essentially be infringing upon the right of competent individuals to choose what foods they wish to consume.


  4. Colin Murphy says:

    Hi Bekim,

    As Sarah, Katelyn, and Diane will agree, you’ve written an excellent contribution to our class blog!

    Although I did not conduct research on Diabetes this week as you did, I have written on the contrasting priorities of hegemonic superpowers and third-world developing nations in this class before. Personally I’ve only known the Swedes for their affordable, contemporary furniture available at Ikea, so I’m glad to learn the country also conducts substantial research on Diabetes and the treatment of the disorder. And of course it’s no surprise that the healthcare systems of developing countries come nowhere close to those of well-established nations.

    I was also unaware big-corporation fast-food chains have such an established footprint in South America and that the continent is the leader in Obesity. After reading this I considered where the United States of America fell on the list and you’re right – many sources do claim the South American population on average more obese than its American counterparts. Viewing fast-food as a status symbol definitely isn’t common here in the United States, but I can see how it could be in a developing country. This is just another example of how much influence hegemonic superpowers have on developing third-world countries – albeit in a less significant view.

    Again, you’ve a great piece here that really does a nice job exemplifying the influence developed nations have on newer third-world countries. It will be interesting to see how Patchett further explains this influence in later chapters of her novel.

    – Colin


  5. ballen68 says:

    I also believe that the epidemic of lack of adequate health care in developing countries is a huge issue. The good thing is that there are a lot of movements toward improving the medical systems of these developing countries. I have seen firsthand the lack of medical systems in several developing countries while visiting in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. In Dominican Republic many of the villagers did not even have access to any clean water, let alone good medical attention. We saw many people in terrible health conditions, but nobody was there to help them. The government was not in the position, or did not choose to help these individuals that were in these conditions. Outside not for profit organizations are starting to help the people in these countries to become healthier, more stable individuals. Organizations such as Red Cross are helping with humanitarian acts in these countries to improve the overall health of the populations. When I went to Dominican Republican I got to help with bringing clean water to a village. Later on we went to villages and helped with improving dental care, as well as improving the knowledge of the locals on taking care of their teeth. That is what I believe is the biggest key to having successful turn arounds for countries and their health care system. I believe that the education of the individuals is the most important key to making sure these individuals become healthier. I support the efforts of the nonprofit businesses that are helping to eliminate bad health conditions in developing countries, and I look forward to seeing if we can eliminate the issue completely.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s