ZU Magazine is a publication of ZU Media. The following is an article from Issue 5: Revolution.

Staff Writer | Katrina Williams

When an Azusa Pacific student becomes ill, it only takes a few minutes at the health center to receive a diagnosis, treatment and, if needed, medication. Meanwhile, there are Azusa residents and people across the nation that stress over the cost of an annual check-up.

Healthcare looks different for every person across the globe. To engage with places outside of the United States in an educated way, it is important to understand their healthcare systems. This understanding provides opportunities to learn and gain the tools necessary to help others while making informed decisions for our own nation.


Azusa Pacific Professor Ismael Lopez Medel was born in an urban, lower-middle class neighborhood in Madrid, Spain. In a city of six million people, health care in Madrid is universal for all citizens.

“You pay for the healthcare with your taxes, which are much higher, but you get medical coverage,” Medel said. “When you register as a citizen of your own, you get a medical card that allows you access to the system.”

In most European countries, universal health care is something citizens have come to expect. Because universal health care is such a generous system, some people abuse it with excessive hospital visits and exaggerated illness. To prevent this, the government budgets have recently cut resources for care.  

Medel believes that the United States struggles to provide everyone with proper health care because of our individualistic society.

“It amazes me that a place with such wealth will allow its citizens to be sick and suffer when there are resources available,” he said. “It feels as if you don’t take care of one another all the time.”

According to Medel, the U.S. should consider universal health care for citizens, similar to the system in Spain, in order to prevent sickness in the lower-class and promote a greater sense of unity within our country.


Azusa Pacific alumni Jasmine Malott lived the first 16 years of her life in the city of Shenzhen, China, in the province of Guangdong. According to Malott, it is easy to receive health care in China for someone who is employed.

In Malott’s experience, the government will pay for 70 to 80 percent of hospitalizations. To her, China’s healthcare is significantly better than the U.S. because it is affordable and covers most of the population.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “a government-subsidized insurance system provides 95 percent of the population with modest but comprehensive health coverage.” China is determined to provide affordable basic health care for all Chinese people by 2020.

“Healthcare fee is dependent upon your income,” Malott said. “If you are a citizen of the countryside, you only need to pay 10 yuan [about 2 U.S. dollars] per year and the rest of healthcare is free.”

The health care system in China is fairly affordable and willing to aid in cases of major illness and disease. Today, their health care system is continuing to evolve, as they move towards providing their citizens with even more free coverage and necessary medications.

South Africa

Andrew David McElwee was born and raised near the city of Pietermaritzburg, Africa.

According to McElwee, health insurance in South Africa is available through two different sectors, both public and private, which vary depending on wealth and privilege.

“The public sector is really underfunded,” McElwee said.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the top 10 percent of wealthy South Africans earn 50 percent of the total annual national income, while the bottom 80 percent combined earn only 17 percent.

In McElwee’s experience, however, South African health care was decent. “Having access to all the gifts of white privilege, I had the means of seeing a good doctor and going to well-funded locations,” he said. “The public sector needs to be funded more to sort out quality and staffing issues.”

While studying abroad in South Africa, Azusa Pacific alumni, Natalee Sims, worked in public hospitals and various clinics of nearby townships.

“The difference is extreme,” Sims said, “At the private hospital, there is adequate staffing, resources and efficiency. The public hospitals, although free to patients, are understaffed, low on resources and people wait for hours just to see a physician.”

According to McElwee, closing the health gap is going to require health education, overall effort and positive initiatives by government and private groups.

From universal care to care by income, every country handles health treatment differently. By analyzing the way that other countries run their health care systems, this commonly debated topic in the U.S. will become more informed and proceed with a greater knowledge of how to interact with different people across the world.