Assessing the Worldwide Contribution of Cooperatives to Healthcare

IHCO, the International Health Cooperative Organisation, published its “Cooperative Health Report 2018”  with EURICSE, the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises. The report unveils what is the contribution of cooperatives to the global health and why cooperatives are well-equipped with competitive advantages for the health sector.

“Over the past years, growing imbalances between the supply and the demand for health services have pressured the national health systems. Increasing health expenditure, the ageing of the population, the long waiting times or the struggle to cope with long-term care due to chronic and degenerative diseases are some of the problems of the health systems”, explains IHCO. “Counteracting these difficulties, health cooperatives are found in several countries delivering a wide range of services, including insurance coverage, prevention and soft healthcare services, the distribution of pharmaceutical products and the management of healthcare hospitals and other facilities.”

The report first identifies the main trends and challenges in the current transformation of health care systems, then studies different cases from countries based on selected types of health cooperatives:

  • Belgium: Mutual aid societies
  • Brazil: Unimed, the largest health cooperative in the world
  • Canada: Examples of health cooperatives from Canada
  • Japan: Health and elderly care cooperatives
  • Italy: New cooperative trends and innovations in the Italian health sector
  • Spain: Fundaciòn Espriu (Espriu Foundation), a best practice in solidarity and shared management

In its colsing remarks, IHCO and EURICSE note: “The diffusion and recent re-emergence of health cooperatives is very closely connected to several key factors, which have become apparent over the past few decades. These include the decentralization of health-care, the diversification and growth of the demand for health services and tensions related to resource availability. The widespread and global development of health cooperatives confirms the key role played by the various cooperative forms. This role is key, not only in serving millions of people, but also in empowering users, especially the most disadvantaged ones.” And add: “the current and potential role of health cooperatives is heavily underestimated, especially by public policies, which tend to either favour shareholder for-profit entities in procurement procedures or use cooperatives in an opportunistic manner for cost-saving purposes.”

The research concludes on the importance of improving knowledge about the real dimension and roles of health cooperatives worldwide: “Better knowledge in this important area is a necessary condition to assign cooperatives a proper place in health care systems. Moreover, it is essential to design enabling policies to further expand cooperatives in the health domain.”