Prioritizing health: A prescription for prosperity
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unwelcome reminder of just how much health matters for individuals, society, and the global economy. For the past century or more, health improvements from vaccines, antibiotics, sanitation, and nutrition, among others, have saved millions of lives and been a powerful catalyst for economic growth. Better health promotes economic growth by expanding the labour force and by boosting productivity while also delivering immense social benefits. However, in recent years, a focus on rising healthcare costs, especially in mature economies, has dominated the policy debate, whereas health as an investment for economic return has largely been absent from the discussion.
As the whole world reimagines public health and rebuilds its economy, we have a unique opportunity not merely to restore the past but to dramatically advance broad-based health and prosperity.
In Prioritizing health: A prescription for prosperity, we measure the potential to reduce the burden of disease globally through the application of proven interventions across the human lifespan over two decades. By intervention, we mean actions aimed at improving the health of an individual. These range from public sanitation programs to surgical procedures and adherence to medication and encompass interventions recommended by leading institutions like the World Health Organization or national medical associations. We also examine the potential to reduce the disease burden from innovations over the same period.
We then determine the impact the disease burden reduction could have on population health, the economy, and wider welfare over the period to 2040 (see sidebar, “Our research methodology”). We conduct our analysis for almost 200 countries; our global, regional, and income-level analyses are aggregated from the country-level analysis.
Throughout this report, we often use shorthand to refer to the disease burden reduction potential as the healthy growth scenario. This scenario is an aspirational yet realistic assessment of the range of interventions that could lead to meaningful health improvement at the population level and boost long-term global economic growth.