Shifting the mindset from health spending to health investment

Launch of the Lancet Taskforce on Non-Communicable Diseases



Evidence of the closely wrought relationship between poverty, economic development and health is longstanding, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that diseases of poverty have been the concern of public health researchers and policy makers for many decades. More recently however, attention has been turning to diseases that have been traditionally viewed as ‘diseases of wealth’, which include stroke, heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancers. 

This shift in attention isn’t driven by a sudden lack of concern for the poor, or indeed the successful elimination of poverty, but rather by the growing understanding of the complex relationship between poverty, health and economic development. The burden of NCDs is growing and has a disproportionate impact on mortality and in economic development in Low- to Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). 

Through their commitment to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, governments around the world have committed to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 30% by the year 2030 (SDG3). As recently pointed out by the UN Secretary General however, progress towards this target has been woefully slow and resources to advance the agenda are yet to materialise. In preparation for a UN High Level Meeting on NCDs, the World Stroke Organization attended the WHO NCD Financing meeting in Copenhagen last week, to explore and identify ways in which financial investment to  could be accelerated.

The meeting saw the launch of the Lancet Taskforce on NCDs and economics chaired by Rachel Nugent, PhD, Vice President of global NCDs at RTI International . The Taskforce released five papers setting out how NCDs are both a result and a driver of poor health and for those countries where healthcare costs have to be met out of pocket, disproportionately impact the poor. The Lancet Taskforce papers set out the investment case for NCDs, sharing evidence for financial protection from high medical costs as a means to break the poverty cycle. Pricing policies and taxation of harmful substances are put forward as effective and proven mechanisms that not only generate vital income that can be invested in health, but also serve to reduce NCD risk factors within the population. 

A shift in government mindsets away from health 'spending' toward health 'investment' that deliver important economic returns is, according to The Lancet Taskforce, critical to addressing inequalities and delivering sustainable economic growth. “Non-communicable diseases are a major cause and consequence of poverty worldwide,” said Taskforce Chair Rachel Nugent. “Responding to this challenge means big investments to improve health care systems worldwide, but there are immediate and effective tools at our disposal. Taxes on unhealthy products can produce major health gains, and the evidence shows these can be implemented fairly, without disproportionately harming the poorest in society.” 

Photo copyright: Institute of Development Studies
Shifting the mindset from health spending to health investment Reviewed by Anita Wiseman on Monday, April 16, 2018 Rating: 5

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