Belize Summary 2024  Common Conditions, Tropical Neglected Factors & Basic Healthcare System



Belize's healthcare system faces significant challenges, magnified by its diverse population and the pressing need for infrastructure improvement in rural areas. This summary explores common medical conditions, healthcare system functionality, and the strategies employed to enhance health services in Belize.


belize healthcare


As a tropical nation with unique health challenges, understanding Belize's approach offers critical insights into managing healthcare under complex conditions.


Belize is actively combating a range of health issues from common communicable diseases like influenza and HIV/AIDS to more region-specific illnesses such as Dengue and Chagas disease. The healthcare system, reliant on external funding, faces challenges in meeting the needs of its diverse and often rural population. Despite these challenges, there are concerted efforts to revamp health services and infrastructure, especially in under-served areas​​.


Key Terms


A disease caused by the Giardia duodenalis parasite, affecting the digestive system.


An infection by the Taenia solium tapeworm, commonly transmitted through undercooked pork.


A tissue infection caused by the larval cysts of Taenia solium, leading to neurological and muscular symptoms.

Chagas Disease:

A tropical parasitic disease, often neglected in surveillance and significant in rural areas.


A disease caused by the bite of infected sand flies, noted as a neglected condition in Belize.


Key Takeaways

  • High Crime and Health Impact: Belize ranks high in homicide rates, which indirectly affects community health and safety.
  • Neglected Tropical Diseases: Conditions like Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis lack adequate surveillance, complicating treatment and prevention efforts.
  • Infrastructure Challenges: Particularly in rural areas, there is a notable lack of healthcare infrastructure, impacting disease management and general health services.
  • Economic Constraints: With a relatively low GNI per capita, economic constraints are a significant barrier to healthcare improvements and access.
  • Healthcare System Overhaul: Belize is actively working towards transforming its healthcare system to better address both communicable and non-communicable diseases through enhanced educational programs and infrastructure development​​.


Medical & Public Health Report

Vicki L. Moag, February 26, 2024


Across the board Belize is an area of high crime and ranks fifth for homicide in the Americas (40.2/100,000) and the top ten in the world (PAHO/WHO, 2022; CSS, 2018). An estimated 2/3 of families are lacking a participatory father figure and a majority of the population is young (WHO, 2014). Belize is noted for multicultural diversity with four main noted ethnic groups that include Mestizo, Afro-descendent Creoles, Indigenous Maya, and Garifuna – most are immigrants (WHO, 2014; CSS, 2018). Interestingly enough Christianity is the most claimed religion (WHO, 2014).


The geography of Belize is diverse yet small as it is only 8,867 mi2 with the bordering countries of Guatemala, Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. It’s speckled with coastal plains, dense forests, savannas, low mountains, sandy beaches, countless islands, and a well noted barrier reef (CDC, n.d.). Urban areas contain 45% of the population and 55% are in rural areas (CCS, 2018). Medical access for health care is not an issue per say in urban areas (especially Belize City), where as there is little to none in rural areas. Hurricanes are an issue as the coast is below sea level and bears the brunt of flooding that increases the spread of disease (CDC, n.d.; WHO, 2014).


Common Conditions & Tropical/Neglected Factors

Common enteric conditions include Giardiasis via the anaerobic protozoan parasite Giardia duodenalis (Benedict & Roellig, 2023), Taeniasis via the Taenia solium parasite (CDC, n.d.), and Cysticercosis that affects muscles, brain, and tissues from unknowingly ingesting T. Solium eggs (CDC, n.d.). Other major communicable diseases include COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Influenza, and Dengue with serotypes DEN 1, 2, and 3 (CDC, n.d.; PAHO/WHO, 2022). Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis is to be noted as neglected because the surveillance for tracking its occurrence is slim to none, but it’s still a concern (PAHO/WHO, 2022).


The top 5 leading causes of death in 2021 included COVID-19,  heart diseases, malignant neoplasms, diabetes mellitus, and homicide (PAHO/WHO, 2022). In children under the age of five leading causes of death include influenza, pneumonia, unintentional injuries, and malignant neoplasms (PAHO/WHO, 2022). The gross national income per capita for Belize in 2022 is $6,630/yr (GNI per capita is the total amount of money received by a country (regardless of whether it originates in the country or abroad) divided by the midyear population) (Statista, 2024). Belize is currently working toward a new and improved health system that will include basic education for how to prevent the spread of certain communicable diseases and limit those that are non-communicable…to the best of their ability.


Basic Healthcare System

The structure and function of the Belize healthcare system is heavily reliant on outside funding and resources. “The Belize health system is currently in transformation guided by the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan 2014-2024 with the vision of a healthy, empowered, productive population supported by an effective network of quality services and effective partnerships for wellness” (PANO/WHO, 2022, pg. 19). With that out of the way, hospitals, doctors, and nurses are limited with a ratio of doctors being 1/1,000 persons and 15/10,000 registered nurses (WHO, 2014). Based on the Country Cooperation Strategy Belize 2023-2027 the updated ratio as of 2018 consists of 10.8 physicians/10,000 persons and 20.8 nurses/10,000 persons pointing towards an overall shortage of healthcare workers (PANO/WHO, 2022).


The Ministry of Health separated the country into four health regions (Northern, Central, Western, and Southern). These four regions (that consist of six administrative districts) are each overseen by Regional Health Managers (PANO/WHO, 2022). “All regions provide primary and secondary care. The rural population is served at the community level through health posts (a total of 55) and health centers (a total of 33)” (PANO/WHO, 2022, pg. 20). Mobile services are provided to remote villages for prenatal care and immunizations along with outreach community services for dental, mental, and prevention of communicable diseases (PANO/WHO, 2022). There is one public referral hospital that offers tertiary care in the Central Region called the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (PANO/WHO, 2022). While there are other regional urban hospitals that offer secondary care.


Health Services: 

  • Primary care facilities at community level with at least 1 nurse
  • Polyclinics, larger staff, services, and 24 hr services
  • Regional Hospitals offer surgical, specialty, OB/GYN, internal med, and pediatrics
  • 4 private hospitals in Belize City and San Ignacio
  • Network of private clinics 


A National Health Insurance program was created for underserved populations and covers about 40%, it’s not clear how often it is utilized and if it has created a greater poverty due to services that can’t be paid (PANO/WHO, 2022).  There are limited government ambulance services at regional hospitals and some health facilities, if you are in the Belize District you pay for it out of pocket (WHO, 2014). There is an increase in private health insurance, where as health insurance was initially only government funded. Everyone ‘talks’ about what they want the universal healthcare program to look like in the country, but it appears to be taking it’s time coming into affect.


Reflection and Application

The healthcare challenges in Belize offer a unique perspective on managing public health in a resource-limited setting with significant geographical and social diversity. These insights are invaluable for public health students and professionals interested in tropical medicine and healthcare management in similar settings. Efforts to improve healthcare in Belize can serve as a model for other countries with similar challenges, emphasizing the importance of targeted health education and infrastructure development in improving overall health outcomes.


belize map



What are the major health challenges in Belize?

Common issues include communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and tropical diseases such as Giardiasis and Chagas disease.


How does Belize's healthcare system address rural health disparities?

Through the development of health posts and centers, and by enhancing mobile health services to reach isolated communities.


What steps are being taken to improve healthcare in Belize?

Belize is focusing on transforming its healthcare system with external support, emphasizing disease prevention and health education.


How do economic factors affect healthcare in Belize?

Limited economic resources restrict healthcare access and quality, particularly in rural areas where medical infrastructure is underdeveloped.


What can be done to better monitor and treat neglected tropical diseases in Belize?

Improving surveillance systems, increasing community awareness, and enhancing diagnostic and treatment capacities are crucial.



  • Benedict K. & Roellig D. (2023). Giardiasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC on Giardiasis
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Guatemala & Belize | CDC Yellow Book 2024. CDC Yellow Book
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2024). CDC in Central America. CDC in Central America
  • Country Strategy and Support (CSS). (2018 May 1). WHO country cooperation strategy at a glance: Belize. WHO Strategy for Belize
  • Nations Online Project. (n.d.). Political Map of Belize - Nations Online Project. Klaus Kästle - Political Map of Belize
  • PAHO/WHO | Pan American Health Organization. (2022). Belize: Country Cooperation Strategy 2023-2027. PAHO/WHO Strategy
  • Statista. (2024 February 28). Belize: gross national income per capita 2012-2022. GNI per capita Belize
  • World Health Organization. (2014). Policy - Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan 2014-2024 | Global database on the Implementation of Nutrition Action (GINA). WHO Health Sector Plan​​