What quality describes a transformed Honduras? – Jonathan Lara Arévalo

Jonathan Lara Arévalo
Our Voice

What quality describes a transformed Honduras? – Jonathan Lara Arévalo

Author: Jonathan Lara Arévalo

It was on November 21, 2011, after two years of constant and grueling chemotherapy, that I understood how blessed I was. Not only because I was notified of a complete remission of a diagnosis of death – acute lymphoblastic leukemia – but also because I realized that my family had spent no more than 3,000 lempiras (approximately USD 125) after countless laboratory tests, 48 days of hospitalization and more than twenty-four months of high-quality treatment, despite having been treated in the country’s public hospital.

Ironically I understood that, because of my age, I had been very lucky. Being 14 years old at the time of diagnosis gave me the opportunity to receive care financed by the Honduran Foundation for Children with Cancer, an organization that absorbs most of the costs, mainly reducing the expenses of the families of the affected children. If the diagnosis had occurred after I turned 18, there is no doubt that my care and outcome would have been different.

In Honduras, public health services for adult cancer patients – and most other illnesses – are characterized by long waits, poor facilities, as well as a shortage of supplies and drugs crucial for treatment, causing patients to have to put money from their purse to continue living. On the other hand, private health services are known for involving huge costs, so high that they represent a great challenge even for the most privileged people.

I can’t stop thinking of all those Honduran families that live and work every day to eat. Those families for which attending a medical appointment or buying a medicine represent a luxury because of transportation issues, location or lack of resources. As of November 21, 2011, I began to understand that access and universal coverage to comprehensive, equitable and quality health services are an essential requirement for a transformed Honduras.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how deficient and collapsed the Honduran Health System is. The correct planning and allocation of a sufficient budget for the health system at all levels is essential, but the good administration of resources, ensuring that decision-makers have the knowledge and experience necessary to earn their position and perform well is just as important. The curative approach must be reoriented to a preventive one, which allows prioritizing health promotion and focusing on the Social and Environmental Determinants of health. Although this is a long-term investment, only in this way will it be possible to reduce health expenses and improve the quality of life of Hondurans. Similarly, education and empowerment in health should be an elementary pillar from pre-basic education, prioritizing the most vulnerable populations, which will reduce inequities in health.

I am clear that the transformation of the country does not depend on a single element, but I am convinced that access and universal coverage of health services are the cornerstone for the construction of the Honduras I dream of.