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Health and Finance Ministers to address need for worldwide increase in health investment

Ministers of Health, Finance and Planning from 40 developing countries will come together with development partners at WHO headquarters from 29 to 30 October to address the need to significantly increase investments in health. This is the first time that the World Health Organization (WHO) has hosted a meeting so widely attended by non-health officials, underlining the urgency of building national capacity to absorb increased health funding.

“This meeting signifies real political commitment from the highest levels of government and donor representatives. Let us capitalize on this unique opportunity to recognize health as a critical investment and together develop a common understanding of how countries and their partners can transform these commitments into immediate actions. We must choose to make equitable and efficient health investments a reality,” said WHO Director-General Dr LEE Jong-wook.

This meeting comes nearly two years after the launch of the 2001 Report of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (CMH), which recommends that by 2007, donors should increase assistance for health to US$ 27 billion. The Commission also calls for more budgetary resources for public health from both developed and developing countries, and more political and organizational effort than has been seen in the past decades to achieve real improvements in health.

Two years on, the world still has not shown determination to increase investment in health to the levels needed to measurably impact major diseases that affect the world’s poor. A recent study* has shown that the total development assistance for health from major selected sources increased by US$ 1.6 billion, from an average of US$ 6.1 billion (1997-1999) to US$ 7.7 billion (2001). Most of the increase in funding was allocated to fighting HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Although these recent increases in assistance for health are encouraging, they still fall short of meeting real needs.

“On taking office, I declared the target of ‘3 by 5’– to have 3 million people with AIDS in developing countries on treatment with antiretrovirals by the end of 2005. Only 300 000 are on treatment at the moment. To achieve ‘3 by 5’ and other health priorities we need considerably more funds than those currently available. If we don’t increase resources for health and target these resources to activities that will have the greatest impact, we stand to lose millions of men, women and children to disease. This also means trapping individuals and families in poverty and disillusionment,” said Dr Lee.

During the meeting, the combined work of countries, WHO and partners will be to develop concrete plans for increased health investment in countries. Continued global leadership and follow-up from the development community, combined with inter-ministerial collaboration is needed: first, to increase resources for health from domestic resources, debt relief and development assistance for health, and second to eliminate health system and institutional constraints, enabling greater absorption of increased resources. This will be critical for pursuing country action to reach the ‘3 by 5’ and other health targets.

“We need country-specific blueprints for making real increases in health investment. Developing countries and their partners need to collectively and quickly do much more, for health and global stability. This meeting can identify ways to make this happen,” added Dr Lee.

National Macroeconomics and Health activities are ongoing in the countries participating in the Consultation: From Africa: Angola, Botswana, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania. From the Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and the Caribbean Community including Haiti. From the Eastern Mediterranean: Djibouti, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jordan, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen. From Europe: Azerbaijan and Estonia. From South East Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. From the Western Pacific: Cambodia, China, Philippines and Viet Nam.

* Development Assistance for Health (DAH): Recent Trends and Resource Allocation Dr. Catherine Michaud, Senior Research Associate, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies

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For more information contact:

Dr Agnès Leotsakos
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 2567
E-mail: leotsakosa@who.int

Mr Gregory Hartl
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 4458
Mobile phone: +41 (79) 203 6715
E-mail: hartlg@who.int