A nice piece was published this week in the Huffington Post summarizing the conclusions of the Global Health 2035 commission. Larry Summers and Gavin Yamey write that, “We are on the cusp of a once in human history achievement.” Major claims that seem hyperbolic until you dig into the report, as I did here. The report is significant because it brings together modern health and development economics and new methods to analyze what value could be created by building policies that consider health a public good and protect the health of the poor and marginalized in particular. From the HuffPo piece:
“Perhaps the most striking finding of The Lancet report is that the economic payoff from investing in a grand convergence would be enormous. We used new research methods from health economics to put a dollar amount on the direct value of greater survival. We found that every one dollar invested in achieving the grand convergence over the period 2015-2035 would return between 9 and 20 dollars. This return on investment is nothing short of astonishing. In financial markets, investments with foreseeable returns of between 9 to 1 and 20 to 1 over reasonable time horizons simply do not exist.”
But, of course, this achievement will take significant investment, much coming in the form of development assistance and foreign aid.
“Though low-income countries will still need direct financial support, we should begin to shift global health aid to providing global public goods. We must double our investment in research and development for vaccines, diagnostics and drugs for those conditions causing the most deaths in the poor world. We must invest more heavily in what is called “implementation science”–the identification of the most cost effective modes of treatment in different kinds of environments. And we must start to get serious about tackling cross-border threats, like antibiotic resistance, counterfeit medicines, and flu pandemics. The next flu pandemic could be far deadlier than the 1918 epidemic that killed 50 million people in an era before mass, international transit.”
The Global Health 2035 commission is coming on the heels of the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals and there seems to be a growing alignment of people in power – from Jim Kim to Bill Gates – that investment in public health is one of the best ways to view foreign aid in the coming decades.