Health expenditure needs to be more than 1% of GDP for all nations says WHO

A report from the World Health Organization says that all nations need to invest at least 1 percent more in the gross domestic product (GDP) on primary healthcare in order to achieve health goals. The present expenditure rates across the globe would mean that around 5 billion individuals would not have access to basic healthcare by the year 2030 says the WHO. The WHO says the present gap between access to healthcare so as to achieve the targets set in 2015 is unacceptable. The report was released on the 22nd of September on the eve of a UN General Assembly high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The Universal Health Coverage Monitoring Report says that health services need to spread across the globe. Health coverage needs to double the present expenditure on health over the next decade up until 2030 to meet the health targets and provide universal health coverage.

Image Credit: WHO
Image Credit: WHO

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in a statement said, “If we are really serious about achieving universal health coverage and improving people’s lives, we must get serious about primary health care. That means providing essential health services like immunization, antenatal care, healthy lifestyle advice as close to home as possible – and making sure people do not have to pay for this care out of their own pockets.”

Spending double of what is being spent now would mean spending an additional USD200 billion annually says the report. This means that the extra money spend on health would provide access to primary health care to all the low- and middle-income nations so that they could save nearly 60 million individuals says the report. Further, this extra amount spent on health would raise the life expectancy by around 3.7 years by the end of the next decade. This further could contribute to socio-economic development says the report. The report adds that to achieve these goals there needs to be a 3 percent rise in global health expenditure that is presently to the tune of USD7.5 trillion.

According to experts the extra money needs to come from the countries and using domestic resources, the nations could raise their health expenditure. Spending says the report, could mean raising the money spend on general public health or target the money towards primary healthcare or invest in both. The report added that at present most countries were not spending enough on primary health care.

The report stresses that expenditure on health may not be a priority for nations that are torn in conflict and political or military turmoil. For these nations, aid from outside could be a possibility and the funds sent to these nations need to be planned and focussed in a manner so that the inflow of the funds leads to long term improvement of the health system and health services. This could be achieved by strengthening the primary healthcare in these nations says the report.

Another major issue with healthcare at present is access to it across the nation says the report. The team added that since 2000, over the past two decades, there has been a steady rise in healthcare coverage across nations reaching the furthest corners of the country. In recent years however there has been stagnation in this attempt to cover the healthcare service gaps. The poor nations for example have attempted to provide greater healthcare coverage but are still to reach the levels of coverage provided by developed nations. War torn nations are one of the most affected regions where healthcare is not accessible to all.

Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, in a statement said, “Too many women and children continue to die from easily preventable and treatable causes simply because they can’t get the care they need to survive. By working with communities to provide primary health care to the poorest and the most vulnerable, we can reach the last mile and save millions of lives.” The report added that in poor nations there are shortages of healthcare workers, lack of infrastructure and inadequate supply systems. These lead to poor quality of healthcare provided to the populations. This also leads to decrease in trust and delay in implementation of UHC, says the report. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA, in a statement said, “Improving and expanding primary health care in all regions is key. It’s the best way to ensure people can obtain services to cover the majority of their health needs from pre-birth throughout their lives.”

Dr. Muhammad Pate, Global Director, Health, Nutrition, and Population at the World Bank, in his statement spoke on diminishing financial difficulties. He said, “The goal of universal health coverage will remain elusive unless countries take urgent steps to protect people from falling into poverty to pay for essential health care. Expanding access to quality primary health care services will save more lives and keep health care costs affordable.” Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD, added, “It’s shocking to see a growing proportion of the population struggling to make ends meet because they are paying too much for their own health, even in advanced economies. The only place where this is not happening is in countries that invest more and more effectively in health.”

This report has been followed up today, 23rd of September, by a UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) of the leaders of major nations around the world on Declaration on Universal Health Coverage. UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit has also taken place alongside.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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