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WHO: Health care investment needs to curb out-of-pocket spending


Governments must boost spending on primary health care by a minimum of an extra 1 percent of their gross domestic product to widen coverage and stop impoverishing patients, the globe Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday.

Despite some progress, more people are having to pay out-of-pocket for occasionally costly medicines and treatment, the U.N. agency said in an exceedingly report compiled with the OECD and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Public investment in primary health care near home, including immunisation, is vital to extending coverage and saving lives, it said.

“We believe it’s achievable and affordable,” Dr. Peter Salama, WHO administrator of universal health coverage, told a press conference.

It would cost an extra $200 billion each year to rescale primary health care in low- and middle-income countries, he said.

“Even though it looks like an outsized sum, we all know most countries can actually afford to try to to this supported their domestic resources. it’s only some of states that needs international aid to rescale their primary health care,” Salama said.

Some $7.5 trillion is spent on health globally annually, per the report, issued on the eve of a health summit at the U.N. General Assembly.

Barely half the world’s 7.7 billion people is roofed by essential health services, the report said, calling for doubling that figure.

Yet if current trends continue, with growth, up to five billion people will miss out on health care in 2030, the target for universal health coverage set by world leaders in 2015, it said.

About 925 million people spend quite 10% of their household income on healthcare, including 200 million people that spend quite 25%, the report said.

“It is sort of shocking to determine the increasing number of individuals which are in danger of poverty because of health spending,” said Francesca Colombo, who heads the health division at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“Even in high-income countries … there has been growth within the share and within the number of individuals who spend large proportions of their household budgets on health,” she said.

Primary health care must cover access to essential drugs including for diseases like diabetes and malaria, said Muhammad Pate, global health director at the globe Bank.

“Because we all know that the price of essential drugs could be a key driver of catastrophic out-of-pocket costs,” he said.

Agnes Soucat, a WHO health systems expert, said that high-income countries must seek efficiencies.

“We are at a crossroads within the health sector within which we see declining marginal returns on investment with new technologies that are expensive but don’t necessarily always get lots of health benefits,” she said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Hugh Lawson


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