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New Report: Six key trends in global health giving (and spending)

Editor’s Note: Tom Murphy, Humanosphere’s East Coast corespondent, also writes for PSI

Flickr, by AMagill

You can be excused for noticing that just about every global health report ends with a plea for more money. Foreign assistance has middled around for a few years and there have been plenty of warnings, but what does the giving and spending actually look like?

A new report released today by Population Services International (PSI) and Devex reveals some of the facts and trends on global health giving in a special edition of Impact Magazine.

There are six key points I find most interesting in this report, including: The growing role of the private sector as both a source of funding and as a ‘partner’ to government agencies; the ’emerging nations’ emerging as donors rather than recipients of aid; and the investment ‘opportunities’ in global health. Read on —  

1) Justine Greening plays up partnerships.

You cannot get sustainable development without the private sector, and you cannot deliver health care in remote and underdeveloped countries without using private-sector supply chains. The private sector and foundations are already key partners with us in many ways. They deliver a large share of health services across the developing world, sit with us on the governing boards of international health funds, make the drugs and treatments that the world needs, are significant donors to global health, and work with us on ways to encourage greater private sector involvement. When polio is finally eradicated, it will be the result of a broad coalition of governments, private foundations, pharmaceutical companies, multilateral agencies and charitable organizations. The private sector will continue to play an increasing part through innovative bodies such as the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria, which uses the private sector to provide access to the most effective anti-malaria drugs that even the poorest households can afford, and GAVI, a public-private partnership which brings in financial contributions from private companies and foundations, to solve global health problems.

2) BRICS get into the giving game. Not only are the countries spending more through foreign assistance, the BRICS increased their domestic healthcare spending. In fact, cumulative spending on domestic health increased by more than $263 billion from 2005-9 among 130 countries surveyed.


3) Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) makes economic case for foreign assistance. He then goes on to stress the importance of holding foreign aid accountable and describes a bill he hopes to pass that will improve accountability and transparency in USAID.

[W]e must do more. Last Congress, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill I introduced called the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012. By requiring measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans for all foreign development assistance programs, this bill would bring increased transparency and accountability to the foreign assistance process. U.S. taxpayers would be able to both exercise their right to be informed about where their money is being spent and be able to get a better idea of what kind of impact U.S. foreign assistance is having around the world. I am looking forward to reintroducing the bill this Congress and building on last year’s momentum.

4) The top corporate foundation givers are not who you expect. The major pharmaceuticals lead corporate global health giving. However it changes a bit when it comes to the corporate foundations. Notice that ExxonMobil Foundation comes in as the second largest foundation that gives to global health.

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5) Unilever tosses corporate social responsibility out the door. The multinational corporation says that it is not going to make social responsibility a separate part of its work. It is going to make it a part of everything they do in their Sustainable Living Plan. CEO Paul Polman describes his vision of the future of business.

I think it will be another 15-20 years before we see responsible capitalism more institutionalized. Business knows how to measure and optimize financial capital; however, we are not so knowledgeable on social or environmental capital. If we don’t start to measure that natural capital and internalize it into our business model, it will be very difficult to change, even on the financial side. There are efforts underway in terms of integrated reporting or natural capital declarations, but they will take 10-15 years to take shape and drastically change people’s behavior.

Now, if we focus on about 100 companies, we can pick 25 of the world’s biggest and make them sustainable. If we focus on some of the largest countries, we can achieve the Millennium Development Goals. If we focus on a few big projects together like we’re now trying to do now with Waterworks in India, we can certainly have an impact. What I advocate for now is starting with a few big projects, such as sanitation. How can we build 500,000 toilets? That’s our current approach; that’s how it has to be done. Then, bit by bit in a very practical way, we can move this world forward and make a positive impact.

6) Impact investing goes global health. The market opportunity for impact investors in global health is a massive $400 billion to $1 trillion. Investors have the opportunity to reap profits between $183 billion and $667 billion over the next ten years. Here are how some are getting in the game:

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]