Global aid for health leaves older adults out in the cold

May 1, 2017, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Development assistance for health targets largely ignores older age groups, with 90 percent of the assistance going to people below the age of 60, according to a new study led by a researcher at the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, Mailman School of Public Health. Children below the age of 5 receive the most development assistance for health. Findings from the study, Vast Majority of Development Assistance for Health Funds Target Those Below Age Sixty, will be published online and in the May issue of the journal, Health Affairs.

Development assistance for globally was $3.13 per person younger than age 60 in recipient countries, per DALY, defined as the sum of years lived with disability and years of life lost because of premature mortality. This is in contrast to $0.91 per person aged 60 and older. The gap was even higher at the extremes of the age distribution: People ages 70 and older received only $0.80 per DALY.

Funds earmarked for low- and middle-income countries to improve health have more than quadrupled since 1990, reaching $36.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2015.

The researchers used publicly available data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's Financing Global Health 2015 report and the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. They examined 27 assistance program areas that identified the cause of disease or the type of intervention targeted for the period 1990-2013. Country- and year-specific disability-adjusted life-years were calculated for each cause.

"When we compared changes in development assistance for health and DALYs from 1990 to 2013—a period of epidemiological and demographic change during which the disease burden shifted toward older ages—we found that assistance was directed increasingly to children," said the study's lead author, Vegard Skirbekk, PhD, of the Columbia Aging Center and professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health. For example, younger than age five had $6.49 billion more assistance in 2013 than they had in 1990. The largest increases were for people ages 5-14 years. People in their twenties and thirties also received relatively large amounts of the spending for development assistance for health, some of it driven by HIV/AIDS funding.

In 2013 the assistance benefited people younger than age five the most, with spending on this age group over three times more than any other age group. Many programs areas benefit this age group, especially assistance for child health, maternal and newborn health, and malaria.

"Our results revealed that development assistance for health is likely to target diseases that occur early in life," noted Skirbekk.

One driver for prioritizing younger over older populations may be that children are seen as representing the future. "Another idea is that younger people—especially children—should be given priority because they are more innocent, and that health risks and diseases that affect them are hardly due to behavior for which they could be held responsible," observed Skirbekk.

Explore further: Global decline in deaths among children, adolescents but progress uneven

Related Stories

Global decline in deaths among children, adolescents but progress uneven

April 3, 2017
Deaths among children and adolescents decreased worldwide from nearly 14.2 million deaths in 1990 to just over 7.2 million deaths in 2015 but this global progress has been uneven, according to a new article published online ...

Growth in maternal and child health funding outpaces spending on HIV, TB, and malaria

April 14, 2016
Funding earmarked for improving maternal and child health in low- and middle-income countries has grown faster since 2010 than funding for HIV, TB, and malaria.

Global health funding reaches new high as funding priorities shift

April 8, 2014
Global health funding hit an all-time high of $31.3 billion in 2013, five times greater than in 1990. Yet with 3.9% growth from 2012 to 2013, the year-over-year increase falls short of the rapid rates seen over the previous ...

Vaccine development assistance nearly quadrupled over 14 years

February 8, 2016
The February issue of Health Affairs explores the current environment in which vaccines are discovered, produced, and delivered. The issue also contains several studies examining the economic benefits and value of sustainably ...

Country-to-country aid for health varies dramatically

November 4, 2015
An analysis of country-to-country aid for health over a 20-year period suggests wide variations among donor countries' giving that do not always reflect recipient countries' health needs.

Widely disparate spending on health forecast through 2040

April 19, 2017
Spending on health care by nations is expected to increase significantly over the next two decades, but the rates of increase and sources of spending will differ widely, according to a new analysis.

Recommended for you

Accurate measurements of sodium intake confirm relationship with mortality

June 21, 2018
Eating foods high in salt is known to contribute to high blood pressure, but does that linear relationship extend to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death? Recent cohort studies have contested that relationship, ...

Fans of yoga therapy have yet to win over doctors

June 21, 2018
Yoga practitioners often tout the unique health benefits of the ancient discipline—from relieving stress and pain to improving vascular health—but most doctors remain sceptical in the absence of hard proof.

Fruit and vegetables linked to changes in skin colour, new research finds

June 21, 2018
Skin colour in young Caucasian men is strongly linked to high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, new research by Curtin University has found.

What a pain: The iPad neck plagues women more

June 20, 2018
Is your iPad being a literal pain in the neck?

Medicaid work requirements and health savings accounts may impact people's coverage

June 20, 2018
Current experimental approaches in Medicaid programs—including requirements to pay premiums, contribute to health savings accounts, or to work—may lead to unintended consequences for patient coverage and access, such ...

Introduction of alcohol found to adversely impact fertility rates in hunter-gatherer community

June 19, 2018
Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a research director with the French National Centre for Scientific Research has found that the introduction of alcohol to a Baka pygmy hunter-gatherer society caused fertility rates to fall. In his ...

0 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.