Investing in health is investing in prosperity.

Author:Sidibe, Michel
Position:Health Matters

Good health is vital not only for personal wellbeing but also for national performances in virtually all sectors--especially in the economic sphere. However, access to quality healthcare in Africa is still far from where it should be, despite recent achievements. Large volumes of investment in health are needed and innovative approaches, for example, involving the private sector, offer promising outcomes.

Home to 1.2bn people, Africa is the youngest of all the world's continents, with a median age of just 19.7 years compared to the global median age of 30.4. The continent has made considerable progress in improving health outcomes over the years. For instance, between 1990 to 2015, life expectancy at birth, a key indicator of population health and economic development, increased from 54 to 63 years, while the number of women dying in childbirth and the number of children dying before the age of five nearly halved.

But there's a long way to go.

How do we ensure that the continent's incredible source of human energy and capital drives future growth, well-being and prosperity, not only on the continent of Africa but globally? Investment in health is key.

The right to health belongs to everyone. As the late Kofi Annan said, health is "not a blessing to be wished for" but rather "it is a human right to be fought for." Our vision for this continent continues to be driven by the hope that the most vulnerable can live in dignity --and that must include access to good quality health care.

And yet, for too many people, access to health care is simply not available. And, if it is, it is the straw that breaks the camel's back--an unavoidable outlay that pushes families into destitution. Around 3.4bn people globally, who earn $5.50 a day or less, are just one medical bill away from sinking into poverty.

Scarce public funds and unpredictable donor aid do not only impact on the quality of healthcare, but have also resulted in high out-of-pocket expenditure for health that has pushed many people into poverty.

The recent Healthcare and Economic Growth in Africa report launched at the Africa Business: Health Forum in Addis Ababa shows that in around half of the countries in Africa, 36% or more of total health expenditure is from out-of-pocket payments. A survey last year of patients at a government hospital in Uganda discovered that 53% of their households had to borrow money and 21% had to sell possessions to pay for treatment.

Investments are needed to...

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