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A healthy equation  

I was in a meeting yesterday where someone remarked that it was simplistic to say promote health spending in developing countries and development will result (the person was in favour of such spending, but didn’t want to encourage false hopes on the results).

Providentially, the World Health Organisation chose yesterday to publish its report looking precisely at that equation. Its conclusion? “Increased health investments of $66 billion will generate at least $360 billion annually and save approximately 8 million lives per year.” That’s a mighty favourable ratio.

The figures are sobering for those of us fortunate to live in the rich world. The poorest countries spend 4% of GDP on health, which comes to about $13 a year per head. Harvard economist Jeff Sachs, who led the commission, is quoted in the Financial Times as saying these countries need to stretch to get to 5-6%, but that would still leave them short of the $30-40 a year per head which is essential.

The strong conclusion of the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health gives me renewed faith in the value of some grand initiatives. The commission was launched in Davos 2000 with a worthy session, largely consisting of platitudes about health and the developing world. From unlikely beginningsĀ…

In its analysis, the Financial Times identifies next year’s conference on financing for development in Monterrey, Mexico, as an early test of whether these aspirations can be realised.

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