Negative view of foreign aid for health is based on flawed analysis: experts

The evidence underlying the current widely-held view that foreign aid for health in a recipient country leads to a displacement or diversion of government funds from that country's health sector is unreliable and should not be used to guide policy, according to experts writing in this week's PLoS Medicine.

Rajaie Batniji and Eran Bendavid from Stanford University, USA question the robustness and validity of a previous analysis (by Lu and colleagues, which was published in The Lancet in 2010) on which the current scepticism towards is based and which, according to the authors, is referenced frequently in conversations with decision-makers at aid agencies as a cautionary note about foreign aid for health.

The authors argue: "while in some settings aid likely is displaced from the health sector, we call into question the assertions that donor health funds are being systematically displaced and misused."

The authors re-analysed the data from The Lancet analysis using a different and found that after spurious results (outliers) and other factors reflecting the real world situation (such as how donors interact with governments) were taken into account, there was no straightforward between government spending on health and foreign aid for health, thus challenging the previous findings.

Batniji and Bendavid say: "In sum, any linear relationship that exists among the data is too tenuous to be a basis for policy."

They continue: "Of course, some displacement of aid from the health sector may occur. It would be rational for governments seeking to improve the distribution of limited national resources, and seeking to avoid interruptions in health service provision with annual fluctuations in aid, to avoid a rapid rise in health sector spending. However, our findings should relieve donors of the need to make unrealistic demands on recipient governments, and of the pressure to divert resources to NGOs."

More information: Batniji R, Bendavid E (2012) Does Development Assistance for Health Really Displace Government Health Spending? Reassessing the Evidence. PLoS Med 9(5): e1001214. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001214

Related Stories

Getting aid to where it is needed

date Jul 04, 2011

In the early 2000s, the international aid community started to fund health programs through Global Health Initiatives (GHIs) which provide aid and support for tackling infectious diseases, and for implementing immunization ...

Recommended for you

Footpaths and parks support active school commute

date 5 hours ago

While it probably won't make the idea of attending school more appealing social scientists say different infrastructure and behaviour change programs are key to encouraging young people to take a more active ...

Food barometer measures a population’'s eating habits

date 6 hours ago

A survey by Taylor's-Toulouse University Centre (TTUC) is collecting data on the food habits of individuals and how their choices are related to modernisation and other social factors. Results show that almost ...

Who you gonna call? Beijing smokebusters to go on patrol

date 10 hours ago

China's capital seeks to snuff out smoking in indoor public places on Monday with a new ban, unprecedented fines and a hotline to report offenders, but enforcement is doubtful in one of the world's most tobacco-addicted countries.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.