The World Bank plans to name and shame countries that are failing to invest in health and education for their citizens, following a new analysis showing that less than half of the world’s population has access to essential health services.
The institution will oversee a ranking next year of investments by every nation in the “human capital” of its own people, which it argues is linked to higher economic growth and prosperity.
Jim Kim, head of the World Bank, said: “There is overwhelming evidence that health and education outcomes have had a huge impact on economic growth?.?.?.?I hope heads of state will begin very actively looking around the world for ways to improve outcomes.”
The initiative is likely to trigger resistance by countries, after a previous ranking of health systems by the World Health Organisation at the start of the millennium sparked anger from some of those that performed relatively poorly, including Brazil and the US. However, it comes at a time of fresh concern over insufficient action by countries to reach the UN’s sustainable development goals, including renewed efforts to promote “universal health coverage”.
Mr Kim said there was now much greater data on health outcomes and a willingness to share the information. The World Bank would also develop new financial instruments for investing in infrastructure in lower income countries, he said. That would create “fiscal space” for them to channel tax receipts into health and education.
Research into new ways to provide a basic package of health services to individuals was a signature issue in the campaign earlier this year by Tedros Adhanom to become head of the World Health Organisation.
A study released at a health forum in Tokyo showed that 800m people spend more than 10 per cent of their household budget on healthcare, and that out-of-pocket expenses push 100m into extreme poverty each year.
Despite strong progress in tackling infections such as malaria and HIV in lower income countries in recent years, there is growing concern that many non-communicable diseases have been neglected. More than 1bn people live with uncontrolled hypertension.