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The 10/90 Gap

Although technology and medicine have greatly advanced over time, much of this progress has stayed within developed countries. While countries like the United States have access to high-tech medical devices, low-resource countries still struggle to maintain the fundamentals of health care. This disparity is known as the 10/90 gap. Activists claim that only 10% of global health research is devoted to diseases and conditions that affect 90% of the world. Some of these diseases include HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. I came across this term in a reading for my class on medical devices in the developing world and was completely taken aback! It also frustrated me that such a gap could even exist in our world. Why and how could this exist?



Reasons For Health Disparities

Millions of people die every minute from treatable or preventable diseases. Each year, over eight million children under the age of five pass away from malnutrition and preventable diseases (Shah). There are a multitude of causes for such an extreme disparity, and these causes intertwine with each other to form a complex web. In particular, access to essential healthcare, such as treatment, is a major issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 30% of the world population does not have regular access to existing medications. The poorest socioeconomic groups suffer disproportionately from this lack of access. Thus, poverty is clearly a major factor that accounts for such a sharp difference in healthcare.

However, there is much more beyond poverty that can lead to this health disparity. Governments of certain countries often do not prioritize spending their resources on health needs. Rather, they spend more money on other factors that they deem more important, such as the military (Stevens). Weak infrastructure further contributes to the 10/90 gap, as well as lack of awareness and education. Due to these factors, health research and development may not be prioritized in some countries. This results in much neglected research that ultimately leads to numerous deaths from preventable/treatable conditions.

I really wish I knew how I could help decrease this gap, but I sadly do not. I’m just a freshman in my first semester of college, and I don’t exactly know what I want to do with my life. I am certain that science will be a big part of my future, but I have no idea where I’ll end up- a hospital, research lab, or foreign country? Or maybe none of the above? Although I am unsure about what my future entails, I aspire to work in a job that allows me to combat this 10/90 gap in some way to contribute to overall global health.


Shah, A. (n.d.). Diseases- Ignored Global Killers. Retrieved November 11, 2016, from
Stevens, P. (n.d.). Diseases of Poverty and the 10/90 Gap. Retrieved November 11, 2016, from

Edited by: Ruby Halfacre & Karen Yung