Health for all: WHO launches first-ever roadmap to link health with sustainable economic growth

WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All launches report at 76th World Health Assembly

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Wednesday 24 May 2023
WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus. Photo: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a roadmap to focus on the links between health and sustainable, inclusive and innovation-led economic growth during the ongoing 76th World Health Assembly (WHA). The report is the first of its kind.

Health for All: Transforming economies to deliver what matters report was launched May 23, 2023 by the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All, which was formed two years ago in November 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: WHO publishes zero-draft of pandemic treaty: Equity, IPR take centre stage

“The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has outlined a bold new path to reorient economies to deliver what matters — health for all,” WHO said in a press note. 

“Now, instead of health for all being seen as the servant of economic growth, we have a roadmap for structuring economic activity in a way that will allow us to reach the goal of seeing all people with access to essential health services faster with better results,” said WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said. 

The council was established to provide new economic thinking — reassessing how health and well-being are valued, produced and distributed across the economy. The all-female group comprises 10 distinguished economists and area experts.

The group focused on reimagining how to put health for all at the heart of government decision-making and private sector collaboration at regional, national and international levels, said the global health body. 

UCL professor Mariana Mazzucato, chair for WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All, said: 

Health for all must be at the heart of government investment and innovation decisions—and it must be governed with the common good in mind. The Council will work to address these many challenges and offer the world a path forward.

The report recommended policy approaches underpinned by this new economic narrative.

The choices on channelling and shaping public and private investments will determine whether the world continues to struggle with the consequences of major health challenges or succeeds in creating a new political economy based on health for all, it further said.

Read more: Not enough women in World Health Assembly: Some countries may need a century for gender parity

It recommended reorienting economies to deliver health for all across four interrelated themes:  

  • Value: valuing and measuring what matters through new economic metrics;
  • Finance: how to finance health for all as a long-term investment, not a short-term cost;
  • Innovation: how to advance health innovation for the common good;
  • Capacity: how to strengthen dynamic public sector capacity to achieve health for all. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown an urgent need for a globally agreed system for sharing pathogen materials and clinical samples to facilitate the rapid development of medical countermeasures as global public goods, Ghebreyesus said at the 73rd WHA, November 13, 2020, while announcing the formation of the council. 

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