Global health is a keystone in the fight to end extreme poverty. Simply put, better health leads to better economies. The UK government has done a commendable job allocating its resources towards global health and plays a lead role in the global efforts. The UK now has an opportunity to demonstrate global leadership by encouraging other countries to follow in its global health spending.
Action for Global Health (AFGH) released a report in June that focused on the trends in Official Development Assistance (ODA). The report stated that in 2012, for the third year in a row, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) spent more than 0.1% of Gross National Income (GNI) on global health, naming them the leading donor. Unlike most other European countries, the UK funded 60% of its resources for health through bilateral aid and only 40% through multilateral organisations. Additionally, in 2012 the UK’s ODA towards health accounted for more than 20% of the total ODA transfer. This was the highest of the countries studied in the AFGH survey.
The UK also demonstrated its commitment to global health in September 2013 when it doubled its monetary support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The pledge reached up to GPB 1 billion over three years. The UK, however, withdrew its bilateral aid to Middle Income Countries (MIC) which is causing major cuts in services for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in MICs.
While the UK’s spending on health is admirable, it is important that the government is mindful of its effects and influences on the rest of the world. The UK’s influence on the board of the Global Fund has swayed the Global Fund to reduce their financing of Middle Income Countries. This left many of those countries with no reassurance that the financing gap would be filled. The TB European Coalition’s report, ‘After aid: What is next for the Tuberculosis & HIV in Europe?’ examines the effects felt from “donor withdrawals” in Europe. These consequences, it explains, have already been felt in countries like Romania that have seen a rise in HIV and TB rates when aid to the country was cut.
It is clear that the UK has taken strides within its own government to prioritise global health, but it has not done enough to suggest that its global partners do the same. The UK Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC) encouraged the work that DFID has done in regards to global health, but challenged them to use this to demonstrate global leadership that will influence its international partners to do the same.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is commended as being one of the best examples of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the world. The government, however, has done not enough to promote its system as an example for solving global health issues. Here is a missed opportunity by the UK government to strengthen its world leadership on health systems.
Recommendations proposed by Action for Global Health (AFGH) state that it is important that the UK continue its spending of 0.1% of GNI on global health to maintain its position as the leading donor. Furthermore, in countries where DFID plans to withdraw their aid, they should work with national and international stakeholders to install plans for the transition. Lastly, the UK Government should continue its efforts in global health in hopes of influencing other countries to follow in their lead.