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Friday, February 26, 2016

Health Economics

With the UN set to launch the bold sustainable development agenda this autumn, this is a crucial moment for global leaders to reflect on the financial investments to maximise progress by 2030. As an input into deliberations around those investments, the signatories to this declaration, economists from 44 countries, call on global policy makers to prioritise a pro-poor pathway to universal health coverage (UHC) as an essential pillar of development.
UHC means ensuring that everyone can obtain essential health services at high quality without suffering financial hardship. Resource constraints require individual countries to determine their own definition of “essential”—while recognising, in the words of former WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland, that “…if services are to be provided for all, not all services can be provided. The most cost-effective services should be provided first.”/.../
We welcome the declaration in support of universal health coverage (UHC) by Lawrence Summers1on behalf of 267 economists from 44 countries. We are astounded, however, by the complete absence of tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) from this call for action. This is especially surprising given the strong focus on NCDs in the Lancet Commission on Investing in Health, chaired by Summers,2 and the cost-effectiveness of many NCD interventions that can be adapted and simplified for inclusion in suitable packages.3 UHC, without NCDs, will not meet the health needs of any country. There can be no “grand convergence” without addressing NCDs.
We declare no competing interests.


  1. Summers, LH and on behalf of 267 signatories. Economists' declaration on universal health coverage. Lancet20153862112–2113
  2. Jamison, DT, Summers, LH, Alleyne, G et al. Global health 2035: a world converging within a generation. Lancet20133821898–1955
  3. WHO. Package of Essential Noncommunicable (PEN) disease interventions for primary health care in low resource settingsWorld Health OrganizationGeneva2013

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