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Global health spending hit record $9.8tr over COVID-19 in 2021 — Report

Global  health spending hit a record high of US$9.8 trillion in  2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which broke out in December 2019.

The recently released World Health Organisation, WHO, Global Health Expenditure report 2023, which disclosed this, revealed that the significant increase in health spending worldwide represented a 10.3 percent share of the world’s GDP.

The development marked the highest level of health spending ever recorded, highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHO observed that the increase in health spending was largely driven by increased government spending, reflecting the prioritisation of public health during the pandemic.

According to the data, average government spending on health grew by 8.4 percent in 2021, compared to a 3.7 percent increase in total GDP.

But while the overall spending increased, the distribution of resources remained uneven, according to the WHO.

High-income countries accounted for over 70 percent of total health spending, while low-income countries spent less than 10 percent.

This difference underlines the need for further investment in low- and middle-income nations’ health systems.

According to the study, a large percentage of the additional investment was dedicated toward pandemic response.

Vaccinations, testing, treatment, and public health initiatives were all funded.

The paper also emphasises the difficulties in establishing universal health care, particularly in low-resource areas.

It advocates for increasing investment in primary care and the development of health-care systems to ensure that everyone has equitable access to vital health services.

Overall, the WHO study portrays a complicated global health scene. While overall health spending growth is promising, substantial discrepancies remain. Addressing these discrepancies and providing fair access to health care for everyone will continue to be priorities.

The WHO released the annual Global Health Expenditure Report on Monday, it provides comprehensive data on health spending trends across 194 countries and territories.

From the report, in 2021, total health spending in Africa reached US$127 billion, a 6.5 percent increase from 2020. However, Africa still has a significant funding gap to achieve universal health coverage, with the WHO estimating an additional US$32 billion per year needed.

Government funding remains the primary source of health spending, accounting for 54 percent of the total.

Out-of-pocket spending by individuals and households is a significant burden, accounting for 40 percent of total health spending in 2021.

External funding, such as donor assistance, accounts for a small but important share of health spending in Africa (6 percent).

Communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, accounted for 31 percent) of total health spending; Non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, accounted for 27 percent) of total health spending in 2021.

North Africa had the highest average health spending per capita (US$202), followed by Southern Africa (US$102), and Central Africa (US$38).

To achieve Universal Health Coverage, African countries need to increase government spending on health and find innovative ways to finance health services.

Opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health spending in Africa include strengthening health systems, reducing waste and corruption, and investing in preventive measures. By addressing the challenges identified in the WHO’s Global Health Expenditure Report 2023, African countries can make significant progress towards improving their populations’ health.

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