Opinion: Obama’s Global Health Plan, Safe Financial Services Can Help Alleviate Poverty
Health Aid Makes No Difference in Mortality Rates, Health Outcomes
President Obama's recent global health proposal "makes some sense" as "far more people in poor countries die of preventable diseases like pneumonia than AIDS," Philip Stevens, policy director at the International Policy Network, writes in a Providence Journal opinion piece. However, Stevens says that the "$63 billion question remains (for that is the sum proposed by Obama): Is it likely to help improve health over the long term?"
According to Stevens, "[s]tudy after study shows that health aid makes almost no difference to mortality rates and health outcomes, despite the expenditure of billions." He adds, "In happier economic times, indefinitely financing state health care in Africa may have imparted a warm humanitarian glow to U.S. taxpayers. Now that times are harder, and it is clear such transfers rarely work, maybe it's time to pare them right back."
Stevens writes, "When governments become dependent on foreign sources to maintain their activities, it drives a wedge between them and their citizens and allows corrupt and repressive governments to remain in power." It also "discourages governments from enacting the politically difficult reforms needed to promote economic development strengthening the rule of law, establishing property rights and opening markets," Stevens writes, adding, "Without improving prosperity, you can't improve health care." He concludes, "Congress still has to approve the funds so it has a chance to end subsidies to corrupt governments and being a new chapter for the world's poorest people" (Stevens, Providence Journal, 5/17).
Saving Money Can Improve Lives
Savings accounts could "help people in the developing world weather unexpected events," accumulate money, increase their productivity and income, and strengthen their financial security, Melinda Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in a Newsweek opinion piece.Gates recently spoke to a group of women in the village of Matela, Tanzania, who said they could afford malaria drugs for their children, if they had a safe way to save their money over time. This is a "moment of opportunity," according to Gates, who wrote that "innovation" and "new policy ideas" are working together in ways that could bring "safe financial services to the doorsteps of the poor." The Gates Foundation has committed more than $350 million to increase access to financial services because "safe places to save can help break the cycle of poverty," she writes. Gates concludes, "If we all act on this moment, then within a generation, billions of people will have the chance to build up their savings and live the healthy, productive lives that they deserve" (Gates, Newsweek, 5/15). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.