The World Health Organisation (WHO) has drummed support for improved investments in health systems. According to the organisation’s Director-General, investments in health systems can boost the economy in addition to preventing damage.
Speaking at a panel discussion on the intersection of health and economics that was organised by the London School of Economics on 17 March 2021, WHO DG Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the WHO has been trying to make the economic case for investing in health.
“The pandemic has made the case all too clearly: health and the economy, development and stability, are integrated and inter-dependent. When people are healthy, they can learn, earn and innovate. When people are sick, the whole of society suffers. A major health emergency can derail a society and an economy. People and communities who are already vulnerable suffer the most,” Tedros said.
The UN Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth has projected the creation of about 40 million new health sector jobs by 2030 globally. Tedros described this as critical for health and also means that more people will receive a regular salary.
“And because women make up 70% of the global health workforce, jobs for health workers are also an investment in gender equality,” he said.
He however noted that not all investments in health are created equal, and how countries finance health can also have implications beyond the health sector.
“For example, linking health insurance to employment can cause significant inequalities in societies with a large informal sector, or when a sudden economic downturn causes job losses, as we have seen with COVID-19,” Tedros said.
He noted that the most cost-effective investments in health are those that prevent or delay people needing to use the health system, by addressing the reasons people get sick and die – in the food they eat, the water they drink, the air they breathe, and the conditions in which they live and work. He stressed the need for new choices to be made.
“We don’t just need more investment in public health. We must also rethink how we value health. The time has come for a new narrative that sees health and health systems not as costs, but investments that are the foundation of productive, resilient and stable economies. And we need to elevate health as a social goal, making it a core objective of economic policies,” the DG said.
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