Governments should resist the temptation to cut their health budgets in response to a global financial crisis, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said steps to repair the economy should not only focus on rekindling trade and business growth but also on fighting poverty, misery and ill-health.
She told the Graduate Institute in Geneva that the credit crisis, paired with global warming and other pressures, stood to have “profound, and profoundly unfair” consequences for medical care, and particular efforts to confront and prevent disease.
Cutbacks to national health budgets during previous economic crises, such as the oil shock and global recession seen 30 years ago, have caused serious problems in poorer parts of the world, said Chan, a former Hong Kong health director.
Chan said it was essential that governments avoid putting health care on the backburner, stressing that healthy populations would help reinforce economies in tough times.
“Health is the very foundation of economic productivity and prosperity,” she said.