Reinvesting in Health: A High-Level Policy Dialogue


Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation Hillevi Engström invited a group of high-level colleagues engaged in global health and development for an informal discussion on the benefits and costs of investing in health, and the role of health in the post-2015 agenda. Twenty-six high-level participants and their advisors met on 31 October 2013 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm.

The objectives of the meeting were to discuss the links between health, poverty reduction, and economic development, and draw conclusions on how available evidence can be used to accelerate efforts to achieve the health MDGs and inform on-going discussions on the post-2015 agenda.

Key questions included: What can be achieved by investing in health, especially in reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH)? What is the investment case for health and to what extent does it lead to economic development and poverty reduction? How much will this cost and who should pay in the post-2015 scenario? What is the role of development cooperation for health up to and beyond 2015? What type of global partnerships will be needed and what actions need to be taken to shape a more appropriate global institutional landscape for health and development?

These are especially important questions to ask now as key decisions will be made in the UN General Assembly over the next 24 months on the future development agenda.

Key messages that came out of the meeting included:

  • The benefits of investing in health are clear: in addition to saving lives and improving health and wellbeing, it makes for sound economic policy and contributes to poverty reduction.
  • The additional investments required to increase life expectancy and maximize health at all stages of life are substantial, but they are feasible and sustainable.
  • Success will require many low- and middle-income countries to allocate a greater share of the government budget to health and social sectors; development partners will need to increase technical and financial support, and to use their collective resources more effectively.
  • New ways of working, more efficient partnerships for health, and a coherent multi-sector policy approach are needed at national, regional, and global levels.
  • Alongside integrated high-impact medical interventions, prevention and health promotion are increasingly important to improve population health.
  • Investing in health is not only about investing in nurses, doctors, and drugs. It is also about addressing governance, management, and leadership.
  • Effective investments require ministries of finance and several other ministries (education, environment, trade, etc) to be informed and engaged. The same applies to parliamentarians, civil society, media and academia as they collectively hold the government to account for its budgetary decisions and implementation.