This case study illustrates Bangladesh’s progress in health. The story describes the nature of the progress, analysis of the factors that have contributed to progress and lessons for policy makers.
Despite still low social indicators and continuing prevalence of poverty (40% of the population lives below the poverty line), the health sector in Bangladesh has shown impressive progress. Among the most notable achievements, infant and child mortality rates have reduced dramatically, immunisation coverage has rocketed and life expectancy has risen steadily.
A few key converging factors have contributed to these achievements. The government of Bangladesh has shown policy continuity and commitment to improving health conditions, placing particular emphasis on improving the health conditions of its citizens and targeting the poor, women and children. Innovative practices and approaches for targeting and empowering the most vulnerable, together with effective partnerships with nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), have contributed to these successes. NGOs have also played a key role in developing novel approaches and practices as well as in delivering services to hard-to-reach groups. Donor assistance has also been critical to the development of Bangladesh generally and the health sector in particular. Underlying these factors is a strong sense of social contract and social solidarity, to which the struggle for liberation and relative cultural homogeneity contributed.