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WHO calls for ‘radical redirection,’ investment in healthcare

by Haruna Gimba
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By Asmau Ahmad

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked for ambitious investments in healthcare spending, reframing it as a long-term investment and not a short-term cost.

Released on Tuesday, the WHO Economic Council’s new brief, “Financing Health for All,” points to three main actions: create fiscal space, direct investments, and the administration of public and private finance.

On public spending, the experts say that easing constraints imposed by outdated economic assumptions and reversing reforms that lead to big health care cuts, would allow spending to increase significantly.

According to the brief, investments to ensure equal access to healthcare for everyone should become the central purpose of economic activity.

It also stated that public leadership should work to create positive regulation, taxation, and industrial policies, that would boost investment in the field.

Finally, public and private finance should be governed by greater regulation of private health markets, through measures that improve outcomes globally and equitably.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted large and growing inequities across the globe in access to healthcare; For every 100 people in high-income countries, 133 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, while in low-income countries, that figure is only four doses per 100.

Yet, according to the WHO experts, the world “continues to follow the same economic paradigm that doesn’t change the underlying finance structure and applies outdated thinking on economic development.”

From 29 to 31 October, in Rome, national leaders together with health and finance ministers will come together for the G20 Summit of leading industrialised countries, which the WHO economists are calling a window of opportunity for a “radical redirection”.

The Council believes that a new paradigm is needed to avoid macroeconomic policies that move the world away from the vision of Health For All.

Introducing the new brief, the Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the COVID-19 pandemic “has demonstrated that the financing of health systems needs to change radically, to protect and promote the health of all people.”

For him, the document “makes a clear and compelling argument for the need for sustained financing to be directed to achieving health for all people, and for investments to be understood as long-term gains for national and global development”, the UN Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported.

Prof. Mariana Mazzucato, the Council’s chair, noted that health systems overall were under-resourced, but warned that “more finance is not the only solution.”

“The work of the council stresses the need to reform and redirect finance in radical ways, so that the objective of Health For All, is designed into the financial structures, the conditionalities and the partnerships between business and the state,” she said.

The WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All, was established in November, 2020, to rethink how value in health and wellbeing is measured, produced, and distributed across economies.

The Council is made up of ten of the world’s most eminent economists and health experts, it works in four areas; briefs in each of these areas, and a final report to be produced in 2023.

It will be used to build momentum towards changing the structure of economic activity, in favour of realising the ambitious goal.

The members of the Council include: Prof. Mariana Mazzucato (Chair), Prof. Senait Fisseha, Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Vanessa Huang, Prof Stephanie Kelton, Prof. Ilona Kickbusch, Zelia Maria Profeta da Luz, Kate Raworth, Dr Vera Songwe and Dame Marilyn Waring.

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