Financial crisis and global health: Report of a high-level consultation
Publisher/Organizer: World Health Organization
Publication date: 19 January 2009
Number of pages: 18
"The objectives were:
- to build awareness of the ways in which an economic downturn may affect health spending, health services, health-seeking behaviour and health outcomes;
- to make the case for sustaining investments in health; and
- to identify actions – including monitoring of early warning signs – that can help to mitigate the negative impact of economic downturns.
Conclusions: a five-point framework for action:
The consultation suggested five areas where action at global, regional and country levels – with support from WHO – will help to ensure that the health sector emerges from the crisis in good condition.
Leaders in health must be prepared to speak out – unequivocally and on the basis of sound evidence – to make the case for health at times of crisis. This must happen at country level, where health ministers and their officials work with ministries of finance. Regional institutions can be a powerful force in bringing countries together. At global level, it is imperative that the need for safeguarding progress in health, and ensuring that donors keep to their commitments, becomes a focus in meetings of global leaders. WHO should ensure a strong voice for health through its work on advocacy.
Monitoring and analysis
Contingency planning must be based on good quality information. It is clear that the impact of the crisis will vary country by country. Country-specific analysis will therefore be essential to guide policy and to assess the potential impact on different populations and institutions. Early warning systems will require collaboration between organizations with complementary fields of expertise. In addition, WHO will pay particular attention to monitoring financial flows for health from governments and donors as well as the cost and availability of medicines and other forms of care.
Pro-poor and pro-health public spending
There is widespread agreement that counter-cyclical public spending provides a means of reviving economies. Aid will play a key role in providing a boost that many low-income countries cannot finance alone. The challenge is to ensure that spending is genuinely pro-poor and that, where possible, it has a positive impact on health. Infrastructure investments provide one route, but other opportunities for safeguarding lives and income can also be identified. Short-term measures can provide the basis for more ethical public spending in the future.
Policies for the health sector
Primary health care provides an overarching approach to policy at a time of financial crisis. Its continuing relevance lies in its value base – stressing the importance of equity, solidarity and gender; through inclusiveness – and the objective of working towards universal coverage and pooling of risk; through a multisectoral approach to achieving better outcomes; and through utilizing the assets of all health actors in the private, voluntary and nongovernment sectors. WHO should provide support, on request, through country offices supported, as necessary, by regional offices and headquarters.
New ways of doing business in international health
The financial crisis requires that the international health community asks some fundamental questions about the way it operates. These include: how to reduce overlap and duplication between the work of different agencies; how to promote greater synergy between individual health programmes; how to ensure that key health promoting interventions in areas such as nutrition and sanitation are not neglected; how to accelerate progress in United Nations reform; how to bring a greater number of specific initiatives more in line with country priorities?
Progress will depend on action at country, regional and global level. WHO is also concerned to increase its own effectiveness, and work is in hand to seek efficiencies, to explore new and better ways of working, and to review priorities.”