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World Health Organization estimates cost for a healthier world

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Health worker providing immunizations to children in Nigeria.
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NORMAN, Okla. – A recent report from the World Health Organization, Sustainable Development Goals Health Price Tag published in The Lancet Global Health, shows investments to expand services towards universal health coverage could prevent 97 million premature deaths between now and 2030. Additionally, these investments could add an additional eight years to life expectancy in some countries. The report estimates the costs of expanding health services in order to reach 16 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) health targets in 67 low and middle-income countries. 

"Universal health coverage is ultimately a political choice. It is the responsibility of every country and national government to pursue it," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, wrote in a commentary accompanying the paper in The Lancet Global Health.

The SDG Health Price Tag proposes two scenarios: Scenario A, in which investments are sufficient for countries to attain the health targets in the SDGs by 2030 and Scenario B, in which countries get two-thirds or more of the way to the targets.

Ambitious Scenario A requires an increase in new investment from $134 billion annually to $371 billion, or $58 per person. Although 85 percent of these costs can be financed directly by the concerned countries, 32 of the world’s poorest countries would need ongoing external assistance up to $54 billion to reach their goals.

This scenario includes adding over 23 million new health workers and building 415,000 new health facilities with most being utilized as primary care centers. 

97 million premature deaths, including over 50 million infants and children who are stillborn or die before their fifth birthday and 20 million deaths from noncommunicable diseases and cancer,  could be prevented. Life expectancy in the 67 concerned countries would be increased by up to 8.4 years.

“Universal health coverage and health emergencies are cousins—two sides of the same coin,” Ghebreyesus wrote.

Although this generous plan seems ambitious by increasing the health spending as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) across all 67 countries from an average of 5.6 percent to 7.5 percent, it is still lower than the world average for health spending of 9.9 percent of the GDP.

The SDG Health Price Tag’s Scenario B requires new investments increasing from $104 billion a year to $274 billion, or $41 per person by 2030. 

This plan could prevent approximately 71 million premature deaths and increase health spending as a proportion of GDP to an average of 6.5 percent. It would add 4 million health workers and build 378, 000 new health facilities, most of which would be primary health care centers. 

The 67 countries concerned by the SDG Health Price Tag represent 95% of the population in low- and middle-income countries and 75% of the global population.

“Achieving universal health coverage will require innovation. Also, what is measured is managed so data matters,” Ghebreyesus wrote.

Link to see the full article in The Lancet Global Health.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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