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Catalyst dialogue on health financing

Financing Health for All in the context of scarcity

Corinne Grainger

  • Christoph Benn, Director for Global Health Diplomacy, Joep Lange Institute
  • Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • Tom Hart, Research Fellow, ODI
  • Lesley-Anne Long, President & CEO, Global Business Coalition for Health
  • Riaz Tanoli, CEO, Social Health Protection Initiative, Health Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Insights from a debate on how to increase funding for health and spend existing funds more effectively.

Catalyst Dialogue Health Financing

Emerging suggestions

The following suggestions for German policy-makers and parliamentarians surfaced over the course of this Catalyst Dialogue. Given its position as a major funder and champion of global health, Germany can serve as ‘honest broker’ by doing the following:

  • Consider financing health as investment and not as cost in all its work.
  • Help develop taxation systems that generate domestic funds for health, both globally and in partner countries.
  • Seek solutions to bottlenecks in implementing debt restructuring agreements and establish and strengthen mechanisms and/or processes for investing a portion of the funds released in Health for All.
  • Work with governments, regional and global development partners and the private sector to create more stable conditions for investment by private enterprises in health sector supply chains, from R&D through manufacturing and distribution to delivery, both in partner countries and through regional and global platforms.
  • Ensure that private sector investments are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to Health for All.
  • Champion ongoing efforts to restructure the global health financing architecture which bring heads of government – in addition to health ministers – into the policy and decision-making space.
  • Push for more harmonised processes between different multilateral agencies, for example by agreeing a single framework for investing in health at the country level.
  • Support efforts to encourage countries to contribute their ‘fair share’ to financing Health for All as a global public good.
  • Strengthen the capacities and voices of key health stakeholders in partner countries that make the case for health in a domestically appropriate way and who hold governments to account.

Why a Catalyst Dialogue on health financing?

The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that it has triggered, have placed considerable pressure on both national health systems and the broader development architecture. Repeated shocks have laid bare the acute underfunding of health systems and institutions at every level – from community health systems through to multilateral institutions such as the WHO, and global resources such as the Pandemic Fund. Climate-related crises continue to demonstrate the stark need for health systems that are more agile, more resilient and above all more equitable.

The scale and intensity of these challenges could be seen as a rare window of opportunity for a radical re-think of the structures and processes for providing and financing development cooperation for health. Germany currently provides more funding for development cooperation than any of its European counterparts, ranking second only to the US at a global level. As a major contributor to the WHO, Germany has long championed both multilateralism and global health. It is therefore in a unique position on the global stage and vis-a-vis governments of partner countries to advocate for some urgently required changes.

To inform the German government’s position on financing Health for All, the Global Health Hub Germany and Healthy DEvelopments, co-sponsored by the German Federal Ministries of Health and of Economic Cooperation and Development, convened a high-level ‘Catalyst Dialogue‘ among five distinguished representatives of academia, development cooperation, think tanks, the private sector and multilateral institutions. Participants initially took part in individual interviews and then gathered on March 16, 2023, for a virtual debate on how to finance Health for All in the context of scarcity.

The objective of this paper is not to present a consensual statement of all Dialogue participants, but to trace central lines of argument from the Catalyst Dialogue discourse as it unfolded. It illustrates policy-relevant positions and presents a range of complementary perspectives, all of which promise to enrich Germany’s policy dialogue on financing Health for All in the context of scarcity.

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