Health gap between rich and poor could close by 2035

The massive health gap currently witnessed between the world’s rich and poor nations could be eradicated by 2035, leading health experts have reported.

Prompted by the 20th anniversary of the 1993 World Development Report, the Global health 2035: a world converging within a generation report sought to determine the feasibility of closing the health gap.

It found that if there was greater investment in drugs, treatments and vaccines – to the tune of millions of dollars – global health equality could be achieved within the next two decades.

The study

Despite progress within the UN’s Millennium Development Goals to combat the spread and severity of infectious diseases and infant mortality, huge disparities exist in the world between richer and poorer nations.

Yet Lawrence Summers, Chief Economist at the World Bank, wrote in leading healthcare magazine The Lancet that governments and donors could launch “a grand convergence” to prevent ten million avoidable deaths each year by 2035.

The former US Treasury Secretary, who is also now chairing the newly launched Commission on Investing in Health, notes “for the first time in human history, we are on the verge of … eliminating major health inequalities.”

He went on to note that in particular, inequalities in maternal and child health can be eradicated, “so that every person on earth has an equal chance at a healthy and productive life.”

In addition, he states that governments should focus spending on treatments and vaccines for diseases including HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Expected returns

In what was termed an “ambitious but feasible” plan, the Commission states economic growth should allow the low and lower-middle income nations to pay for their own health improvements.

The Commission estimates low income countries would have to invest from USD 23 billion to USD 27 billion annually; rising to USD 38 billion to USD 53 billion in lower-middle income countries, for healthcare equality to be reached by 2035.

At the same time, wealthy nations should shift their role on the world health stage from financial prop to scientific research hubs.

What’s more, the report’s authors focused on the successes of Chile, Costa Rica, China and Cuba, which have massively reduced their preventable deaths via sustained health investment within the last 20 years.

The returns are impressive, the report notes.

In low-income and middle-income countries, reductions in mortality represent around 11% of recent economic growth – when measured within their nation’s income.

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