In a thought-provoking lecture titled “The Pursuit of Health amidst Scarcity: Economics, Health, and the Romance in-between” at the University of Ghana, Professor Justice Nonvignon, a distinguished Health Economist from the Department of Health Policy, Planning, and Management, emphasized the crucial connection between health and economic development.
He called on the government to place health at the core of its development strategies.
The Strong Link Between Health and Economic Development
Health Centric Economic Development: Numerous studies have illustrated the profound relationship between health and economic progress, showcasing that a healthy population actively contributes to economic growth, particularly the working population driving productive sectors.
Regrettably, health has not received the priority it deserves in development planning, resulting in insufficient investment to meet the essential living conditions of the population.
Government’s Efforts and Challenges
Prof Nonvignon commended the government for the increased budget allocation to the health sector over the years, amounting to approximately GHS 11 billion, including the National Health Insurance Scheme Levy. However, despite these efforts, the funding falls short of meeting the requirements and the 15 per cent of the government’s annual budget pledged to the health sector following the 2001 Abuja Declaration. Bottlenecks in the Public Financial Management System have hindered the full utilization of allocated funds.
Health as a Key Input to Economic Growth
Highlighting the significance of health as a key input to economic growth, Prof Nonvignon stressed the need to prioritize funding not only for the health sector but also for health-related sectors. The latest report by the Ghana Statistical Service indicated that the health sector is the second-largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 9.3 per cent, following only services. Despite this, the country spends more on servicing debt than on critical social investments, such as health and education.
Challenges in the Health System
The health system faces numerous challenges, including inadequate personnel-to-patient ratios, insufficient facilities and infrastructure, governance issues, and data system gaps. To address these challenges and drive economic development, Prof Nonvignon called for increased research and investment in innovative approaches to influence health spending. He suggested that the government should take advantage of special health programs to bolster the sector’s growth.
In conclusion, Professor Justice Nonvignon’s lecture at the University of Ghana shed light on the crucial link between health and economic development. Prioritizing health in development planning and increasing investments in the health sector will not only benefit the population’s well-being but also lead to sustained economic growth.
The government’s commitment to strengthening the health system will pave the way for a healthier and more prosperous nation.