Higher health spending will save millions of lives, boost nations' economies - UN report
A drastic increase in health spending for the world's poor will not only save millions of lives but also produce enormous economic gains, according to a new report released today by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).
In the report, entitled "Macroeconomics and Health: investing in health for economic development," a group of leading economists and health experts argue that increased health investments of $66 billion per year above current spending will generate at least $360 billion annually by 2015-20. It will also help to save an estimated 8 million of lives around the world.
About half of the gain will be a result of direct economic benefits: the world's poorest people will live longer, have many more days of good health and be able to earn more. The other half will be as a consequence of the indirect economic windfall from this greater individual productivity.
To achieve this, the 18 experts from the WHO's Commission on Macroeconomics and Health state that a dramatic increase in resources for health over the next few years is needed. About half of the total increase would have to come from international development assistance, while developing countries would provide the other half by re-prioritizing their budgets.
Receiving the report today in London, WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland described it as a turning point that would influence how development assistance is prioritized and coordinated.
"It is important to see the report not as just another plea for more resources for health," Dr. Brundtland said. "The Commission is arguing for a comprehensive, global approach to development assistance, which underlines the need for investments towards concrete goals within specific time-frames."
For his part, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan applauded the report for its "careful analysis and thoughtful conclusions" that demonstrated all the real economic benefits of investing in people's health and well-being.
"The Commission also offers wise guidance on how to invest in health, including the kinds of safeguards and practices that will bring the best results," Mr. Annan said in a message on the occasion of the launch.
The Secretary-General stressed that unless the consequences of illness were prevented, or at least minimized, illness undermined people and led them into suffering, despair and poverty. That was why, he stressed, good health featured prominently in the Millennium Development Goals set by UN Member States at last year's Millennium Assembly.