Health systems

Health and development

Throughout the world, vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people have less access to health resources, get sicker and die earlier than people in more privileged social positions. These unfair gaps are growing in spite of an era of unprecedented global wealth, knowledge and health awareness.

WHO/Stephenie Hollyman

Health is central to the global agenda of reducing poverty and in particular, to meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Weak and inequitable health systems--especially those that are confronted by severe human resources shortages or lack means for sustainable financing--represent a key obstacle to scaling up the disease prevention and control programmes required to meet the health objectives outlined in the Goals: reducing child and maternal mortality and the burden of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and providing access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.

It is vital that countries ensure that health is prioritized within overall development and economic policies. Inversely, social, political and economic initiatives can improve health system functioning if they make these systems a priority.

Health and Development Helpful resources

Health and development

Macro-economics and health

Social determinants and health


Ethics, trade, human rights and health law

Globalization trade and health

High-Level forum and the Health MDGs

Health systems

A well-functioning health system
working in harmony is built on having
trained and motivated health
workers, a well-maintained infrastructure,
and a reliable supply of medicines
and technologies, backed by adequate
funding, strong health plans and
evidence-based policies.