Agenda items to be discussed in health ministers’ meeting : impact of global financial crisis in health.
AbstractThe current global financial and economic crises have important implications for health in Member States of the South-East Asia Region. Experience with similar events in the past – notably the Asian crisis in 1997 – indicate that the health status of the poor, especially of women and children, is particularly vulnerable, needing reiterated government priority to health. The pathways in which the crises could impact health work at both the micro and the macro levels in countries. Increased unemployment and poverty at household level constrains financial access to care in a Region where out-of-pocket health expenditures are already exceptionally high and impoverishing. While there is greater reliance on subsidized public services, budgetary capacity to even maintain the share of health spending is difficult in periods of economic slowdown. Countries that have been most successful in protecting the poor and vulnerable are those where governments have been committed to reform and have used a crisis as an opportunity to accelerate long-term health systems restructuring toward universal coverage. Thailand, during the Asian crisis, is a case in point and, in fact, is also the only country in the Region to safeguard the health budget during the current crises through legislative action. Little is available by way of robust evidence at this stage and the crises continue to unfold. Recovery is not predicted before next year and then too it is expected to be slow. As requested at a regional consultation on the subject, the WHO Regional Office for the South-East Asia Region is setting up a health intelligence unit to monitor the crises and interpret health implications for countries. Further, rapid assessments on household impact are being conducted in three countries to support strategic action targeted at protecting the poor and vulnerable and, possibly, stemming a spill-over to social unrest. Both these efforts are in response to country requests for assistance in preventing a health systems crisis and, in fact, use the crises as an opportunity to restructure health systems towards social protection for universal coverage. The views and recommendations of the HLP Meeting on this agenda item will be submitted to the Twenty-seventh Meeting of Ministers of Health for its consideration.
World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia. (2009). Agenda items to be discussed in health ministers’ meeting : impact of global financial crisis in health.. New Delhi: WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia.. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/127758
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