The Impact of Health-Aid

According to a new study by Stanford University’s School of Medicine, health-aid is having a direct impact on the increase of life expectancy and reduction of child mortality in developing countries. While the results of this study could come as no surprise to some, the implications are far reaching.

The study examined public and private health-aid programs implemented in 140 countries between 1974 and 2010. Contrary to common perceptions about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of foreign aid, researchers found that health-aid grants have led to significant health improvements.

According to Eran Bendavid, MD, an assistant professor in the Division of General Medical Disciplines and lead author of the study, countries benefiting from health related foreign assistance saw greater improvement in child mortality rates and life expectancy than countries that receive less.

“If these trends continue, an increase in health-aid of just 4 percent, or $1 billion, could have major implications for child mortality. We estimate there will be 364,800 fewer deaths in children under 5.”

Moreover, Hans Rosling, famed Swedish statistician and development expert, explains that “as child mortality continues to fall, women are choosing to have fewer and fewer babies.” This trend is not only far reaching in terms of world health, but also has greater implications for population management.

Once again, using his trademark development data and statistical tools, Rosling tackles the correlation made between reducing child mortality and overpopulation.

He emphasizes the importance of improving measuring capabilities in development programs, especially when it comes to women’s health and family planning. Citing the case of Ethiopia, Rosling shows how “improved access to health service in rural areas and well-spent aid” have contributed to the fall of child mortality rates from 23 percent to only 8 percent in a period close to 25 years.

These two studies point to several important conclusions when it comes to health-aid. First, it is imperative to continue to support health-aid programs and even improve funding levels. Second, there should be greater emphasis on data collection and measuring tools to identify if program goals are being met. And last, the inclusion of family planning initiatives parallel to addressing child mortality and women’s health promises to generate better results.

— Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: Health Canal, New Security Beat
Photo: NY Times