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Access to drugs and health care



  • One billion people lack access to health care systems.
  • 36 million deaths each year are caused by diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. This is almost two-thirds of the estimated 56 million deaths each year worldwide. A quarter of these take place before the age of 60.
  • Heart related diseases (CVDs) are the number cause of death globally. An estimated 17.5 million people died from CVDs in 2005, representing 30% of all global deaths.
  • Over 7.5 million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition and mostly preventable diseases, each year.
  • In 2008, some 6.7 million people died of infectious diseases alone
  • Tuberculosis kills 1.7 million people each year, with 9.4 million new cases a year.
  • 1.6 million people still die from pneumococcal diseases every year, making it the number cause of death worldwide that could be prevented by vaccines. More than half of the victims are children.
  • Malaria causes some 225 million acute illnesses and over 780,000 deaths, annually.
  • 164,000 people, mostly children under 5, died from measles in 2008 even though effective immunization costs less than 1 US dollars and has been available for more than 40 years.
Pills 400


You are an NGO composed of young doctors and you want to take action offering your competences to the community.

Your organization has 4 teams, each one dedicated to a specific issue:

  • the first team is responsible for promoting actions addressed to local, European and national institutions;
  • the second group explores the impact of the economic crisis on access to medicines and health care in the local community and works with charities who collect medicines to distribute to disadvantaged people;
  • the third group expresses through art, feelings connected with both negative and positive experiences in the area of access to health care;
  • the fourth group works with local organizations working with migrants and health workers in order to guarantee access to health care for everybody.
WHO Logo 400


For this project you will need to divide into 4 groups.

Group 1:

Medicines and health products are important for addressing health problems and improving the quality of lives. Medicines however are not always easily accessible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declares that many diseases are "diseases of poverty."
Health inequalities are to be found all around the world, not just the poorest countries, but even in wealthy nations.
Read the article "Health, poverty and inequality" to deepen your knowledge in this area.

What is the role of the pharmaceutical companies and the governments of richer countries?
Read the article "Large Pharmaceutical Companies—Profit at all costs?
Discover the website of the MSF Access Campaign launched in 1999 by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (active link to document)
Write a speech to be delivered to the European Parliament proposing stricter regulations for pharmaceutical patents.

Group 2:

Are medicines accessible and affordable in your country?
Explore how the economic crisis has had an impact on the health of some European countries. Visit the websites in "Resources" Section.
How has the recent economic crisis affected your local community?

  • Interview local charities who support socially disadvantaged people economically and discover if requests for food, clothes and medicines that they have received in the last year have increased in comparison with previous years.
  • Find out how you can collaborate with them in promoting and developing the collection of medicines and other health products. Make sure that you follow their guidelines closely in the respect of dangerous drugs etc.
Group 3:

In some countries, conflicts are one of the main obstacles to the access to health care.

Look at the story of Fatenah in the videos below (Inspired by a true story) that tells the story of a young woman from the Gaza Strip and her difficulties when she gets breast cancer. The video highlights all of the factors which have an impact on the life and care pathways to a resident of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
How would you feel in Fatenah situation?

Put yourself in someone else shoes! Create a piece of art, expressing with colours, shapes and images which are, in your opinion, the feelings of Fatenah.
Discover positive examples of cooperation established in order to support access to health care. Read the document "Project Bolivia" developed by Istituto Fermi (Italy) in the section "Resources". Which are the colours connected with a positive experience?

Organize an exhibition of your collective artwork in your school.

Group 4:

Discover the project "Open Door" by reading the document below. 
Do migrants have access to health care in your country?
Contact organizations working with migrants in your community and gather information and data about the situation in your territory.
Collaborate with these organizations in order to facilitate access to health create for all.


Look at the "Activism" section. You'll find useful tips in order to organise your local action.




Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign
Greeks pay for economic crisis with their health - The Guardian
Health poverty in Italy (IT)
"Large Pharmaceutical Companies—Profit at all costs"
"Health, Poverty and Inequality"





Project Bolivia - Istituto Fermi Verona
Project Open Door


Learning outcomes

  • Know the problem of access to medicines and health care
  • Prepare a speech to be delivered to the European Parliament
  • Know the impact of economic crisis on health
  • Organize an exhibition
  • Collaborate with local organizations to facilitate access to health create for all

Skills acquired

Competences acquired

Knowledge acquired

  • Use the basic English vocabulary concerning health issues.
  • He/she can analyse information about an issue and present it in a synthetic way
  • He/she can connect global challenges concerning health and local solutions


  • He/she can discuss the role of pharmaceutical patents and their impact on access to health.
  • He/she experiments active citizenship, engaging in lobbying and advocacy activities towards an universal right to health.
  • He/she can experiment active citizenship, engaging in activities aimed at promoting universal access to health care.
  • He/she can use creativity in order to express important contents.
  • He/she can activate relationships with health services and CSOs of the territory dealing with health issues.
  • He/she's able to collaborate with other fellow students


  • He/she knows that health and disease are the outcome of processes that are not only biological but economic, social, political, cultural and environmental.
  • He/she knows the main economic, social, political factors which affect the access to health care.