Wendy Kopp states that “co-ordinated international efforts [are needed] to do for education what investment in international institutions has done for public health” (“Philanthropy must shift its focus to the global education crisis”, March 25).
Several research studies by authoritative international institutions seriously question that proposition. The International Monetary Fund revealed that “despite the vast empirical literature considering the effect of foreign aid on growth, there is little systematic empirical evidence on how overall aid effects health, and none (to our knowledge) on how health aid affects health”. It went on
to comment: “This is surprising, given the recent attention devoted to promoting health in developing countries”.
A World Bank study found “that the major drivers on reductions in infant mortality are economic and educational, public health investments account for 5% of this decline”. And the World Health Organization wrote in its Bulletin of a research study subsequently confirmed by Social Science and Medicine which found that “a cross-national variation in child and infant mortality found that 95% of the differences could be explained by differences in income, income distribution, women’s education, ethnicity, and religion . . . public spending on health was statistically insignificant at conventional levels and total public spending explained less than one-tenth of 1 per cent of the observed differences”.
Perhaps one of the most significant contributions to improvements in global health has been through increased access for women to higher education levels and to employment opportunities. A dependency on the public health model to secure more investments for educational undertakings may well duplicate the outcome documented by these three international institutions.
Washington, DC, US
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