Creating a healthy global economy

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 05 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:12

Millions of people are dying because they lack basic health services, and that has economic costs, Professor Jeffrey Sachs tells Kamran Abbasi

Professor Jeffrey Sachs is arguably the world's leading thinker on international health and economic development. As if to confirm it, he has just finished chairing the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, a high profile World Health Organization initiative.

The theme of the commission's report, published just before Christmas, is that health is central to economic development, and donors and poor countries must commit more resources to save lives and develop economies (see News, p7).

This is not an entirely novel suggestion—few are—but Professor Sachs, director of the centre of international development at Harvard University, is confident that his report is a major advance.

“What we have done here is to provide much more detailed costings than before. We have pulled together the economic literature in a way that was not done, for example, in the 1993 World Development Report,” he asserts. “Also, some of the issues that we address were not around then, and the AIDS pandemic was underestimated. We come up with different numbers, and as an independent commission we make straightforward recommendations.

“The main message is that millions of people are dying because they lack basic health services, and that has economic costs as well as the obvious costs. The cost of developing health interventions is manageable and a …

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