Health Funding Grows to Staggering $26 Billion for 2010

The forum entitled “Financing Global Health 2010: Development assistance and country spending in economic uncertainty”, indicates that despite the worst global economic crisis in decades, public and private donors continue to donate generously to global health. The forum was spearheaded by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington

The report documents that there is a continous health funding for the developing countries. The commitment to health in the developing world has grown dramatically over the last twenty years.

The research shows that development assistance for health has grown 375% in the last decade from $5.66 billion in 1990 to $26.87 billion in 2010. Thailand, for example, has seen its health assistance exploded from $2.3 million in 1990 to $67.9 million in 2008. This is a staggering increase of nearly 3000%.

However, IHME’s preliminary estimates show that the growth rate is slowing. Between 2004 and 2008, assistance grew by an annual average of 13%. But between 2008 and 2010, the rate of growth was cut by more than half to 6% annually. The government and private donors in the US made up one-half of all funding in 2008.

Most health funding has gone to the countries with the greatest need. But researchers found striking anomalies including the fact that 11 of the 30 countries suffered from the highest mortality receive less health funding than countries with stronger economies and lower disease burdens.

Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of IHME, feels that, “Everyone in the global health community is worried about how the economic crisis is going to affect giving. Research has shown that economic downturns don’t usually have an immediate effect on charitable giving, but we were still surprised to see sustained growth through 2010.”

Spending on HIV/AIDS programs has continued to rise at a strong rate. This makes HIV/AIDS the most funded of all health focus areas.

Funding for maternal, newborn, and child health received about half as much funding as HIV/AIDS as of 2008. Again, funding for non-communicable diseases represents just 0.5% of all development assistance for health.

Both malaria and tuberculosis received far less funding than AIDS which is $1.19 billion for malaria in 2008 and $0.83 billion for tuberculosis. Funding for malaria and tuberculosis also appears to go to countries that do not have large groups at risk for these diseases.

Why is it so? Dr. Murray feels that this is because health assistance decisions are not made entirely based on need but also reflect longstanding economic and political ties between countries. Some of which go back to colonial days.

“More than 300,000 mothers still die every year, and more than 7 million children die before the age of 5. Chronic diseases need more attention, and countries need better health care infrastructure,” Dr. Murray said. “All of these pressing health issues require funding, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to balance competing needs.”

Whatever the compulsions of funding agencies, Dr. Murray believes that a program should include an evaluation component so that everyone will have a detailed understanding of whether the program is improving health. Spending by governments on their own health programs on the whole far outweighs spending by donors.