Prompted by the 20th anniversary of the 1993 World Development Report, a Lancet Commission revisited the case for investment in health and developed a new investment frame work to achieve dramatic health gains by 2035. Our report has four key messages, each accompanied by opportunities for action by national governments of low-income and middle-income countries and by the international community.
There is an enormous payoff from investing in health The returns on investing in health are impressive. Reductions in mortality account for about 11% of recent economic growth in low-income and middle-income countries as measured in their national income accounts. However, although these accounts capture the benefits that result from improved economic productivity, they fail to capture the value of better health in and of itself. This intrinsic value, the value of additional life-years (VLYs), can be inferred from people’s willingness to trade off income, pleasure, or convenience for an increase in their life expectancy. A more complete picture of the value of health investments over a time period is given by the growth in a country’s “full income”—the income growth measured in national income accounts plus the VLYs gained in that period. Between 2000 and 2011, about 24% of the growth in full income in low-income and middle-income countries resulted from VLYs gained.
This more comprehensive understanding of the economic value of health improvements provides a strong rationale for improved resource allocation across sectors.