Lack of access to health care is one of the key signs of a poverty-stricken or developing nation, but few realize that the affordability of what health care may be available also plays a significant part in what makes and keeps people poor. The World Bank estimates that health care costs alone forced or pushed further more than a half-billion people into poverty in 2021.
The Need for Poverty-Improving Health Care Investment
Folks who have to spend more on health care are far less likely to spend that money on their other needs, such as nutrition or the education of their family. Poor health alone is estimated to claim 15% of the world’s GDP each year in unnecessary deaths and the subsequent loss of productive potential. People’s lack of access to affordable health care not only has a profoundly negative effect on their personal lives but also subtracts from their social and economic involvement. Though a problem at every income level, the effect that poor health care can have on the developing world is more profound — it stunts their economic growth and leaves them further in danger of extreme poverty.
In this way, health care investment plays a crucial role in the reduction of poverty. When poorer citizens are less concerned with their access or ability to pay for health care, they are able to contribute more meaningfully to the workforce and are far more likely to spend their money on other needs. Notably, good health can encourage savings and is a major proponent in business investment, both beneficial activities for economic growth. This pattern played out in the recent past, in the latter half of the 20th century.
As hygiene and health improved, the improvements in avoidance of health complications led to a longer life expectancy and an improved quality of life — something that contributed heavily to the “rapid expansion of the labor force and labor productivity.” Though health care remains a limitation to the economic growth of both the developing and the developed world, the effects of good health care upon the economy and the necessity for further investment are historically evident.
Tangible Benefits of Health Care Upon Poverty
Health care investment has a real-world benefit for those suffering from poverty. Some estimates remark that more than 60 million lives could be saved in the next decade if “annual spending on primary health care in low and middle-income industries” was increased by just 5%. Beyond the loss of life, the economic consequences of mass illness are devastating to the developing world’s economy — the SARS epidemic produced a loss of more than $40 billion in productivity, and the 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak created a loss of $53 billion. Put in the most simple of terms — when people are happy and healthy, so is the economy, and the developing world benefits the most from this form of growth.
A focus on health care investment saves lives and alleviates one of the major causes of poverty in the developing world. The subsequent social and economic gains are not only a benefit to the people who receive them, but further introduce these nations onto the global economic stage. With the investment of affluent nations into the health care systems of developing parts of the world, the entire globe stands to benefit.
– Marc Federici