A new study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene, Oxford University and the University of California San Francisco suggests economic development, health priority, health spending, and health infrastructure explain no more than 20% of the inequalities in progress towards the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). By contrast, their findings suggest that HIV and non-communicable disease burdens explain over 50% of inequalities in progress on reducing child mortality, and are strongly linked to unequal progress on reducing tuberculosis.
EQUIVALENT TO 10 YEARS OF ECONOMIC GROWTH
Researchers David Stickler, Martin McKee and Sanjay Basu calculated that a 1% reduction in the number of people infected with HIV, or a 10% reduction in rate of deaths from non-communicable diseases in a population, would have a similar impact on progress toward the MDG target for TB as an 80% or greater rise in GDP, equivalent to at least 10 years worth of economic growth in low-income countries.
Focusing on achieving reductions in non-communicable diseases such as HIV and TB could greatly enhance progress towards the health MDGs. On the other hand, if not adequately addressed, high rates of non-communicable diseases in low-income countries are likely to further impede progress towards the health MDGs.
PREVENTING CYCLE OF POVERTY AND ILLNESS
Over the past year or two the amount of donor funds going to combat HIV has increasingly been seen by some as a barrier to achieving the child and maternal mortality MDGs, because it diverts funds away from interventions that were seen to have greater population impacts. But the new research findings suggest that it may be inadequate responses to HIV that are the bigger factor holding up progress towards MDG health targets, along with a failure to appreciate the extent to which HIV and non-communicable diseases trap households in cycles of poverty and illness.
Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the Alliance, welcomed the research and the support the results lend to tackling HIV as a key part of achieving the health MDGs. “We continue to believe that integrated programming that addresses the wider health needs of communities – using the service entry points provided by HIV, TB and sexual and reproductive health services – can be the most effective way to improve the lives of communities across the developing world and to achieve the MDGs.”
research suggest inadequate responses to HIV are holding up progress towards MDG health targets