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Saturday, April 08, 2006 

Experts Look at Best Ways to Spend Health Care Funds in the Developing World

April 6, 2006—More than a billion people will die in the next few decades from disease and health problems that could have been prevented, according to a team of health experts from the World Bank, World Health Organization, and the Fogarty International Center of the US National Institutes of Health, supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

But despite their forecast, the experts – members of the Disease Control Priorities Project (DCPP) – say much can be done to improve the health picture worldwide, especially in the developing world, where even basic, low-cost health interventions can make a big difference.
Simply teaching mothers how to keep newborns clean and warm, for instance, could save millions of babies, according to DCPP.

Lives can also be saved by immunizing all children against major childhood diseases, a measure that would cost an extra US$2 to $20 per child, depending on where they live. For more on the challenges facing vaccination programs, read the related story, Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Still Take Toll in the Developing World .

The DCPP team of 500 epidemiologists, health economists, public health practitioners and other experts researched the global cost of health problems as well as the cost and benefits of possible solutions.

The result is 2,100 pages within three publications released this month that identify the best buys in health care—the most crucial, proven, and cost-effective investments for attacking the world’s health crises.

The flagship publication is the second edition of Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries (DCP2), which expands on the 1993 first edition’s analysis in addressing 200 cross-country health concerns. Priorities in Health synthesizes the project’s main message into a reference guide for policy-makers. Global Burden of Disease and Risk Factors provides a snapshot of the health conditions affecting people today.

The three books are intended to help policy makers, health program managers, and donors make tough decisions about how to spend scarce health care resources in developing countries.
DCP2 cautions cost-estimates alone can’t foretell the success or failure of a health intervention. The state of a country’s health system plays a major role. The book therefore examines ways to strengthen health systems in the developing world.

“For health care to achieve the greatest return on investment, it needs to start with several key building blocks: policies that adapt to new information, and research and health systems that deliver,” says Jean-Louis Sarbib, Senior Vice President of the World Bank’s Human Development Network.

“Individual health interventions and programs will be more effective with a strong health care system that includes primary care as well as district and referral hospitals,” Sarbib says.

© 2006 The World Bank Group, All Rights Reserved.

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