Better Health Is Good for The Euro Economy

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Health and Economy

A new report has revealed that improving the health of the people of Europe could also boost the economy of the region.

The report, 'The contribution of health to the economy in the European Union', by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organisation, and the Centre for European Policy Studies is based on a study financed by the European Commission.

In many countries, health - often wrongly equated with health care - is seen as a cost rather than a benefit that should be invested in. Ministries of health often play a marginal role compared to their powerful counterparts responsible for finance or the economy. Health rarely features as an integral part of Member States' economic development strategies and the EU's Lisbon agenda, a strategy for growth and competitiveness, says comparatively little about health as a potential contributor to economic development.

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Health in rich countries was so far not considered to be something which made a significant positive contribution to the economy. This is in sharp contrast to low- and middle-income countries, where the link between health and wealth has received far greater recognition. The issue has made its way into key national and international economic development strategies, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategies supported by the World Bank and the IMF. Health also features prominently in the international development agenda for poor countries, as defined by the Millennium Development Goals.

This new study reviews an extensive body of research and policy documents from high-income countries: cost-of-illness studies; the impact of health at the individual and household level on labour market outcomes, education and saving; the impact of health on the level and the growth rate of national income; and the welfare impact of health.

Professor Martin McKee, one of the report's authors, said: 'This shows clearly that better health is good for the economy in the European Union, and is not merely an automatic by-product of economic progress'.

Dr Marc Suhrcke, from the World Health Organization European Office for Investment for Health and Development (Venice) and another of the authors added: 'This is of critical importance for policy as policymakers interested in improving economic outcomes have a powerful justification to consider investing in health as one means to achieve their economic objectives.'

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