Context: Palliative care is an emerging health care service essential for every health care system. Information on the current status of palliative care service delivery is needed in order to understand the gap between need for palliative care and current capacity to deliver.
Objectives: To estimate the number of providers delivering palliative care worldwide and the patients they served in 2017.
Methods: Estimates were obtained from a sample of countries from each World Bank income group using typical case purposive sampling methods. Reliable data from the United States, and eight additional countries were used for the high-income group. For low and middle-income countries (LMICs), in order to determine an estimate of the number of patients served 30 countries representative of palliative care service delivery in each region and income group were surveyed.
Results: Results from the mapping levels of palliative care development survey identified a total of approximately 25,000 palliative care service delivery teams globally. The total estimate of patients served in 2017 was approximately seven million.
Conclusion: Significant disparities in palliative care access exist both by region and income group. The European and Pan-American regions had most while the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asian, and African regions had least. Much more needs to be done to develop and deliver palliative care in LMICs where 80% of the need for palliative care exists. With about 70% of operating palliative care services in high income countries and only 30% in LMICs, a major effort to develop palliative care in these settings is urgently needed.