These Devastating Images Show The Global Struggle For Health Care That Works

In places like Cambodia and Brazil–and, yes, even in the United States–the wait for affordable health services can be painful.

We’ve all waited an hour too long at the dentist office. But what if, in order to get that root canal, you had to take a long plane or bus ride across an international border–and then wait hours, still?


That’s often the case in Los Algodones, once a tiny, dusty Mexican farming town just across the U.S. border of Yuma, Arizona. Today, it’s thriving on a new medical tourism industry fed by its northerly neighbors.

Visitors from the U.S., often elderly, are there in the “dental capital of Mexico” to see the city’s hundreds of dentists, doctors, and pharmacists who offer cheaper services than in the U.S. The visitors, who are often elderly and often wait in line for care as shown in the image below, are essentially migrants seeking relief from the high-cost U.S. health care system.

Los Algodones is one of 12 places featured in the Waiting for Health photo essay, a series that documents the wait for affordable health care services in nations rich and poor. The goal of the project, developed by the Universal Health Care Coverage Coalition with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, is to show the plight of marginalized people who struggle to access affordable health services they need in powerful stories rather than statistics and soundbites.

In the slide show above, you can see other telling examples, such as the wait outside a clinic in India that serves 200,000 patients a year with only three doctors; or the malarial woman in Guinea who delayed her trip for treatment due to lack of funds; or Libyan refugees living in Norway who seek mental health services.

The images were released in December on the second annual Universal Health Coverage Day, where a coalition of 700 organization urged world leaders to acknowledge the right health care for all. Take a scroll through and see why whether you are in the U.S. and Japan or Cambodia and Brazil, the struggle for effective health services is one of the most universal on the planet.


About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.