Public expenditures and health care in Africa
Unfavorable economic conditions in most of Africa (in this paper Africa refers to Sub-Saharan Africa only) have meant public austerity and a deceleration in government health spending. Given the dominant role of government in providing health services in Africa there is a need to investigate the links between public spending and the provision of health care. Analyzing information from five Sub-Saharan African countries, namely Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Senegal, we investigate the impacts of shifting expenditure patterns and levels on the process of providing health services as well as on delivery of health care. The country analyses indicate that in addition to the level of public spending, the expenditure mix (i.e. salaries, drugs, supplies etc.), the composition of the health infrastructure (hospitals, clinics, health posts etc.), community efforts, and the availability of private health care all influence health care delivery. Consequently, per capital public expenditure (the most important indicator in a number of related studies) alone as a measure of the availability of health care and especially for cross-country comparisons is inadequate. Reductions in government resources for health care often result inless efficient mixing of resources and hence less health care delivery, in quality and quantity terms. With the recent trends in health care spending in Africa there should be greater effort to increase the efficient use of these increasingly scarce resources, yet the trend in resource mix has been in the opposite direction. Given the input to public health care of local communities, as well as the provision of private health care, it would seem that government spending on health care should be counter-cyclical, i.e. government health spending should accelerate during periods of economic down turns. Such counter-cyclical spending would tend to offset the difficulties facing local communities and the declining ability of individuals to pay for private health care. Recommending counter-cyclical health spending may seem wishful, but it points up the necessity of understanding what is likely to happen to health care in African countries in the face of economic difficulties, and particularly in the face of fiscal austerity.
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Volume (Year): 34 (1992)
Issue (Month): 6 (March)
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