The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Health and development

Posted in Health and Human Security by NTSblog on January 4, 2011

The relationship between development and health has often been debated, and remains central to the Millennium Development Goals which promote health as part of an overall strategy for poverty reduction. There are multiple ways which the level of development and the health status of a population are correlated. Poverty potentially leads to the deterioration of health, but health is also a key determinant of economic growth and poor health could aggravate poverty. For example, the poor often disproportionately bear the burden of a nation’s health care costs, and are susceptible to more diseases and suffer more complications as a result of those diseases. Furthermore, poverty and lack of development also renders populations more susceptible to easily curable diseases such as cholera. There is also a strong mutually reinforcing relationship between health and economic growth in the Asia Pacific, as noted by UNESCAP. Poor health may also lead to lower levels of foreign direct investment. Regardless of the cause or effect, there is a strong correlation between poverty and ill health in a number of examples across various regions.

In order to reduce poverty, some argue for improving health, but having a broader strategy of development of economic growth would create greater wealth, contributing to more funds available for improving health infrastructure. A health policy which targets specific health issues or communities in an attempt to improve the health of the most marginalised and affected groups may bring about positive change in the short run, but is largely palliative and fails to address the fundamental lack of development. Inasmuch as it is crucial to address the health status of a population, particularly the most affected, it is arguably more important to improve the overall economic status of the poor in order to bring about sustainable change in the longer term. Comprehensive strategies that work to improve the economic status of populations would be necessary in order for goals such as the MDGs to address poverty and various health targets to be met.


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