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Global health funding still growing, but slowing

Despite the global economic downturn, funding for projects aimed at fighting the diseases of poverty around the world continued to increase — but at a slower pace — throughout 2011, according to a report from Seattle researchers.

Chris Murray

“Even though we continue to see growth in global health funding through 2011, it is troubling to see so many funders pulling back,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and one of the report’s authors. “We are just now beginning to see the impact from the extraordinary growth in global health funding over the past decade. If we give up now, we may lose that momentum.”

The massive increase in global health spending over the past decade has produced significant improvements in maternal and child mortality, reductions in malaria incidence as well as preventing and treating HIV infections worldwide, Murray noted. The IHME report is published online in Health Affairs.

But now, say the Seattle number crunchers, major international health initiatives like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria are seeing donations decline (to the Global Fund, a 16 percent decline last year).

On the upside, given everything else going on, it is good news that global health funding has continued to increase overall. On the downside, the increase in 2011 was about 4 percent — the slowest rate of growth for this sector over the past decade.

Some other news reports based on the Seattle researchers’ report:

Washington Post: Global health aid continues to grow, but more slowly

Guardian: Global health funding so far weathering the storm

Other key findings reported:

  • After a decade of rapid increases in development assistance, the US has greatly slowed the pace of growth to 2% between 2010 and 2011.
  • Development assistance to non-governmental organizations increased by 8% from 2010 to 2011, after two years of drops in funding.
  • Generally the countries with the most significant disease burdens receive the most aid, but 12 of the countries with the highest disease burdens, including Russia, Sudan, Myanmar, and Egypt, are not among the countries that receive the most development assistance for health.
  • Growth in development assistance for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and health sector support slowed between 2008 and 2009. Development assistance for malaria, noncommunicable diseases, and maternal, newborn, and child health accelerated over the same period.
  • The global financial crisis does not appear to have slowed spending by country governments on health. Spending accelerated between 2008 and 2009, increasing from $368.46 billion to $410.50 billion, 16 times the total amount spent for development assistance for health.
  • Countries in East Asia spent the largest amount of their own resources on health in 2009, followed by the regions North Africa/Middle East and Tropical Latin America.
  • For every $1 of development assistance for health that governments receive, they redirect $0.56 on average from the health sector to other spending priorities.

About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.