Which Governments Prioritize Health Spending?
Governance

Which Governments Prioritize Health Spending?

As COVID-19 causes simultaneous health and economic crises worldwide, it's an opportunity to evaluate health spending

Image shows a map of the world color coded according to percent of government spending on health in 2017.
CFR/Julie Rossman

As COVID-19 stresses health systems around the world, access to high quality healthcare is more important than ever. On top of ever-present health needs, many countries are struggling to provide lifesaving care to COVID-19 patients. At the same time, government budgets are shrinking as tax revenues decline amid the financial crisis.

‘As COVID-19 causes simultaneous health and economic crises worldwide, it also presents an opportunity for governments to re-evaluate their investments’

Despite these revenue shortfalls, governments can prioritize health by devoting a meaningful portion of their budgets to it. Higher-income countries tend to invest a greater share of their budget on health compared to countries with less income, but there are many exceptions to this trend. Among low-income countries, Madagascar and Malawi stand out, spending 14 and 9 percent of their budgets on health, respectively. On average, low-income countries spend around 6 percent of their budgets on health. Looking at low-middle and upper-middle-income countries, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, South Africa, and Thailand devote over 11 percent of their budgets to health. On the other end of the spectrum are countries that invest a particularly low percentage of their budget in health—5 percent or less.  As COVID-19 causes simultaneous health and economic crises worldwide, it also presents an opportunity for governments to re-evaluate their investments, giving health higher priority.

Image shows a map of the world color coded according to percent of government spending on health in 2017.
CFR/Julie Rossman

EDITOR'S NOTE: The authors are employed by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which produced the development assistance for health research described in this article. IHME is a partner on Think Global Health. All statements and views expressed in this article are solely those of the individual author and are not necessarily shared by their institution.

Joseph L Dieleman is an Associate Professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.


Hayley Stutzman is a data analyst on the resource tracking team at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).


Angela E. Micah is an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

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