18 January 2000
WHO, INTERNATIONALLY-RENOWNED ECONOMISTS LAUNCH
Thirteen years after the Brundtland Commission established the indisputable link between environment and development, a new expert Commission is being launched to clarify the link between health and poverty reduction.
The Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (CMH), launched today in Geneva by WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, will over a two-year period produce a series of studies on how concrete health interventions can lead to economic growth and reduce inequity in developing countries. It will recommend a set of measures designed to maximize the poverty reduction and economic development benefits of health sector investment.
The Commission, which is chaired by Harvard professor Dr Jeffrey Sachs brings together 15 of the world leading economists and economic policy makers. Among the members are representatives from the World bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, the Economic commission on Africa and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as leading economic development experts, such as former Indian Finance Minister Manmohan Singh and Thai Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi. (Complete list of members is enclosed.)
"The World Bank's 1993 World Development Report showed us how important health is to development," Dr Brundtland said at the launch. "Since then, issues such as debt relief, trade negotiations, the AIDS crisis, essential drug availability and the spiralling of health care costs have left no doubt that health plays a central role in the world economy. Yet, few finance officials and development economists have so far explored the potential importance of health investment as an instrument for reducing poverty. The goal of this Commission and its pre-eminent thinkers is to show once and for all that health must be at the heart of development," said Dr Brundtland.
The CMH will assess critically and generate further evidence on:
The five topics listed above will each be examined by a working group consisting of several members of the Commission, plus WHO staff and other experts. A substantial number of CMH and working group meetings will be held at venues in developing countries. These meetings outside Geneva will both allow input from local academics and government officials and provide a venue for dissemination of, and feedback on, drafts of reports.
The Commission will produce a final report by the end of next year (2001).
Work in the first area – the expected impact of health investments on poverty reduction and economic growth - has already begun and preliminary results will be available by the World Health Assembly in May 2000. Further interim products from the working groups will be ready as early as September 2000.
"The availability of increasingly powerful and inexpensive measures to improve health elevates the potential economic significance of public health measures from simply being efforts to improve health, important as that is, to being a lever for economic growth and poverty reduction," says Dr Sachs. "Yet there remains significant disagreement as to what are the best investments in health in terms of poverty reduction and economic development. This Commission is designed to provide some powerful answers to many of these questions.
"The world must invest more, and more wisely, in public health. This Commission will help to find effective ways to accomplish this urgent task," added Professor Sachs.
THE COMMISSION ON MACROECONOMICS AND HEALTH:
Professor Jeffrey Sachs (Chair)
Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia
Mr K.Y. Amoako
Dr Eduardo Aninat
Mr Zephirin Diabre
Mr Eduardo Doryan
Professor Robert W. Fogel
Ms Nora Lustig
Professor Anne Mills
Mr Thorvald Moe
Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi
Professor Eisuke Sakakibara
Dr Manmohan Singh
Professor Laura Tyson
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