This week, The Lancet launched a series on the remarkable progress and remaining challenges for improving health in Bangladesh, focusing on what The Lancet’s Bangladesh study team calls the Bangladesh paradox: remarkable progress on health-in spite of persistent economic hardship. In a commentary that highlights the country’s commitment to gender equity, economist Amartya Sen argues, “It is important to understand how a country that was extremely poor a few decades ago, and is still very poor, can make such remarkable accomplishments particularly in the field of health, but also in social transformation in general.”
Along with the remarkable health gains in Bangladesh, the series also highlights critical challenges. As The Lancet’s Pamela Das and Richard Horton write: “This is a story not only of unusual success, but also one that describes the frailties and challenges that lie ahead as the country charts a course towards universal health coverage.” Among the major issues that articles in the series tackle are the persistent challenges for improving health in the country’s growing urban slums. In one article, authors Kaosar Afsana and Syed Shaba Wahid of BRAC point out that in urban slums:
Many women die in slums during pregnancy and childbirth. Mortality of children younger than 5 years in slums is almost double that in rural areas. Two-thirds of these deaths could be avoided if timely, appropriate services were available. Unfortunately, antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, and full childhood vaccine coverage are quite low in urban slums. Primary health-care clinics regularly held in slums are not open at convenient times for working women. Community mobilisation to improve health services hardly exists.
For more on the series, tune in to The Lancet’s most recent podcast.