|World Radiography Day: Two-Thirds of the World’s Population has no Access to Diagnostic Imaging|
Between 70% and 80% of diagnostic problems can be resolved through basic use of X-rays and/or ultrasound examinations; PAHO/WHO works with countries to strengthen radiological services in the Region
Washington DC, 7 November 2012 (PAHO/WHO).- The use of X-rays and other physical waves such as ultrasound can resolve between 70% and 80% of diagnostic problems, but nearly two-thirds of the world’s population has no access to diagnostic imaging. On World Radiography Day, which takes place on 8 November, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) will advocate for improving adequate access to and quality of radiological services in Latin America and the Caribbean. The main purpose of the PAHO/WHO Radiological Health Program, created in 1960, is to advise on all radiological health fields with emphasis on policy and program guidance, to strengthen processes for the assessment, adoption, and use of appropriate health technologies for diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy services, in addition to providing technical cooperation to ensure radiation protection of the public, workers, patients, and the environment. PAHO/WHO also assists the Region’s countries in developing well-trained professionals and implementing quality control programs.
“Access to diagnostic imaging services has a great impact on public health and can potentially reduce, for example, infant mortality or increase detection of some types of cancer at an early stage. Unfortunately, current shortages of human resources and obsolete or broken equipment are making it increasingly difficult to provide adequate access and quality in our region,” explained Pablo Jiménez, PAHO/WHO Regional Adviser on Radiology and Radiation Protection. ??Radiography is the creation of images of internal structures using X-rays or other physical waves, such as ultrasound and electromagnetic waves. It is used for diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic purposes. Its different modalities include X-rays, sonography, mammography, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance, among others.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, available services frequently have to deal with poor quality procedures and unnecessary exposure to radiation. As a result, many diseases, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, cancer, and others, are often misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed.??It is estimated that some 3.6 billion diagnostic X-ray examinations are performed every year in the world. Nevertheless, there is a wide gap in the rates of radiographic diagnosis between developing and industrialized countries. While in countries with medium health development (22) in Latin America and the Caribbean, some 400 radiological studies per 1,000 population are done annually, and in those with low health development (5) some 30 per 1,000 population are done, in the industrialized world the number is around 1,700.
A team of well-trained radiological technologists, radiologists, medical physicists, and biomedical engineers contributes to the overall quality of radiology services and care, by providing high quality images and correctly interpreting them. Some of the Region’s countries depend at times on outside support to provide services, because many do not have the human resources or formal education to instruct personnel.
Furthermore, procurement and maintenance of technology is more expensive in Latin America and the Caribbean than in industrialized countries. The dizzying pace of development of technology in diagnostic imaging services partially benefits the Region, where, depending on each country’s income level, state-of-the-art technology is being added mainly in the private sector. ?
“Adopting these technologies poses a number of challenges, since their design usually responds to the needs of industrialized countries; thus, complex equipment is either underutilized or remains damaged due to the weak capacity of some countries to maintain it,” stated Jiménez.
On 8 November 1895, the German Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen produced the first pictures using X-rays, giving birth to radiography. He was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery in 1901.
The International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists (ISRRT), formed in 1959, is a nongovernmental organization composed of over 80 national radiographic societies from 75 countries representing more than 350,000 radiographers and radiological technologists. The ISRRT, which celebrates World Radiography Day, maintains official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO).
PAHO celebrates its 110th anniversary this year and is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the hemisphere to improve the health and quality of life of the peoples of the Americas and serves as the WHO Regional Office for the Americas.