Access to treatment for diabetes and hypertension in rural Cambodia: performance of existing social health protection schemes

Maryam Bigdeli, Bart Jacobs, Chean Rithy Men, Kristine Nilsen, Wim Van Damme, Bruno Dujardin

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BACKGROUND: Non-communicable diseases (NCD) pose challenges to Cambodia's health system. Medicines for NCD are on the National Essential Medicines List but no clinical guidelines support their utilization. Two social health protection schemes aimed at the informal sector population exist (Health Equity Funds and Insurance) together with two disease-specific interventions (a Peer Educator Network and Chronic Diseases Clinics) targeted at NCD patients. This study examines performance of these various schemes in relation to NCD.

METHODS: Cross-sectional household survey among 709 individuals self-reporting diabetes and/or hypertension in three geographical locations in rural Cambodia using a structured questionnaire investigating diagnostic and treatment pathways, health seeking behaviour, health expenditures, and financial coping mechanisms.

RESULTS: Two third of respondents with NCD were female and 55% did not belong to any scheme. The majority (59%) were diagnosed in the private sector and only 56% were on allopathic treatment that was mainly sought in the private sector (49%). Outpatient treatment cost was higher in the private sector and when using multiple providers of care. The majority were indebted, 11% due to health-related expenses. Contrary to social health protection schemes, disease-specific interventions offered better access to allopathic treatment and provided medicines in accordance with NEML.

CONCLUSION: The benefit packages of existing social health protection schemes and services in the public health sector should be adjusted to cater for the needs of people living with NCD in rural Cambodia. Initiatives that offer active disease management strategies and promote patients and community participation appear more successful in increasing treatment adherence and decreasing the risk of financial hardship.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0146147
JournalPLoS ONE
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Cambodia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Hypertension
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health
  • Rural Population
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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