Impact of financial crisis on global health
20 January 2009 -- The financial and economic crisis is in the news everywhere. What kind of impact can it have on global health? We bring you some views from the health sector.
Transcript of the podcast
Veronica Riemer: You’re listening to the WHO podcast. My name is Veronica Riemer and this is episode number 57.
The current economic downturn is expected to have an impact on national health budgets and international development assistance. This impact is particularly likely in low-income and middle-income and developing countries. What steps can be taken to protect vulnerable populations from the negative impacts of the current crisis?
WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan invited health ministers, civil society and international organizations to a meeting this week to consult on these questions. She underlined the damage the financial crisis can potentially create.
Dr Margaret Chan: Financial markets, economies and business are more closely interconnected than ever before. As we have seen, financial turmoil is contagious, moving very rapidly from one country to another and spreading very quickly from one economic sector to many sectors.
The crisis comes at a very fragile time for public health. We are in the midst of the most ambitious drive in history to tackle the root causes of poverty and reduce the gaps in health outcomes. No one wants this momentum to stall.
In times of economic crisis, people want to and tend to forego private care and make more use of publicly financed services. This trend will come. It'll come at a time when the public health system in many countries is already vastly stretched and underfunded.
Veronica Riemer: Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Mr Nimal Siripala de Silva, Minister of Healthcare and Nutrition in Sri Lanka, said that countries recognize that cutting funding to the health sector is not an option.
Nimal Siripala de Silva: Member countries which participated in the discussion, they reiterated their commitment for health despite the crisis. There was not a single country who says that our health budget will be cut or that we cannot meet this particular challenge.
Veronica Riemer: Dr Andrew Steer of the British government's Department for International Development, or DFID, said donors need to honour their commitments. He pointed out that effective use of funds will be equally important.
Dr Andrew Steer: Donors have to honour their promises. The United Kingdom, for example, has promised that it will raise its official development assistance to 0.56% of GDP in 2010 and to 0.7% of GDP in 2013. We need to honour that and we will.
Finally, it is very important that we demonstrate that money is well spent. The health sector has not been a leader, necessarily, in moving forward and improving efficiency of spend. So we need to have a good offer to make to ministers of finance around the world when we want to prevent any decline, indeed increase, finance in health, we have to demonstrate that we can actually spend that money well and deliver real results.
Veronica Riemer: As the meeting drew to a close, Andrew Cassels, Director of Strategy at WHO, shared his list of priorities for countries.
Andrew Cassels: Countries have got to realize that the burden of disease is changing and that accidents, noncommunicable diseases is going to be a priority very soon. A priority of getting development assistance right, untangling some of the coordination knots that countries currently have to cope with and that decreases the effectiveness of some of the support that is given.
That's all for this episode of the WHO podcast. Thanks for listening. If you have any comments on our podcast or have any suggestions for future health topics drop us a line. Our email address is Podcast@who.int.
For the World Health Organization, this is Veronica Riemer in Geneva.