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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

General Commentary: Is There a Doctor in Your Album? The Prognosis for Medical Topicals

According to a survey done by the American Topical Association, Medical/Nursing-related stamps represent the fourth most popular topical stamp collecting area in the United States. While comparable data for the world as a whole is unavailable, it is likely that Medicine ranks high among the world's most popular collecting topics. As many Medical Topical collectors are in the health profession, there are some powerful catalysts which may bolster interest in Medical Topical stamps. The number of doctors and nurses in the world is expected to increase dramatically as a growing middle class in the developing countries demands better medical care and more doctors and nurses per capita, and global aging accentuates the need.

According to various estimates, there are currently approximately 10-15 million medical doctors in the world - about one for every 450 - 700 inhabitants. However, they are not evenly spread around. For the most part, the number of inhabitants per doctor is lowest in the affluent industrialized countries of the West and Japan, and highest in the least developed countries of Africa, Latin America, and Asia. For North America, Europe, and Japan, the number of inhabitants per doctor generally ranges from about 200-500. For Latin America (with the exceptions of Argentina, Chile, and Cuba), the numbers range from about 500-900; for Asia (with the exceptions of Israel and South Korea on the low side and Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal on the high side)- about 700-2,200; for Africa- a chaotically wide range from 1,900 to 50,000 inhabitants per doctor, with many Sub-Saharan African countries having tens of thousands inhabitants per doctor.

According to the World Health Organization, there is a global dearth of healthcare workers. The WHO estimates a worldwide deficit of 43 million medical professionals, with the greatest shortage in sub-Saharan Africa, which needs nearly 1 million workers. And while poverty exacerbates the problems for some regions of the world, the root causes of the healthcare-worker shortage—which includes physicians, nurses and researchers—are shared by both rich and poor nations. People are living longer and the need for healthcare is expanding, and even the most affluent countries, which have the highest number of physicians and nurses per capita, are feeling the pinch. In 2006, the American Association of Medical Colleges recommended that medical schools increase their enrollment by 30% to cope with the U.S.' growing shortage of physicians.

From a humanitarian perspective, the global doctor shortage is a serious crisis which needs to be addressed. Nevertheless, it also represents an opportunity for those who are considering investing in better Medical Topical stamps. As the number of health care workers increases, Medical Topical collecting will also get a "shot in the arm."

(Note: StampSelector articles related to Medical Topical collecting may be viewed by clicking on the "Medicine" category in the Search list, and include: Stamp Investment Tip: U.S. Private Die Medicine Stamps, Stamp Investment Tip: Armenia 2003 Neurophysiology Issue (Scott #682), Stamp Investment Tip: New South Wales 1897 Diamond Jubilee Semi-postals (Scott #B1-2).

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