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Progress in Health around the World

  • David Canning

    ()

    (Harvard School of Public Health)

Health is a key component of the human development index. This paper looks at how health is measured, how the level of health across countries is converging, and which countries are outliers to this global trend. We argue that conceptually health measures should account for illness as well as mortality. However, in practice we show that population mortality and illness measures tend to move closely together, allowing us to use life expectancy as a reasonable proxy for population health. Overall health is improving, and over the last 40 years life expectancy has been converging, with larger gains taking place in countries that initially had lower levels of life expectancy. We show, however, that a detailed analysis gives a more complex picture. Rather than a long term pattern of global convergence we see two distinct groups of countries in the data, clustering around different long run levels of life expectancy. We consider outliers from the general picture found in cross-country analysis. HIV/AIDS plays a large role in explaining the poor health performance of some countries particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS has meant that from 1990 on the process of convergence in health has stopped and is being reversed. Finally we argue that health improvements do not have to wait for national income to rise. Many countries have experienced large health gains without prior income gains, and in countries not affected by HIV/AIDS the last 40 years have largely been a success story in terms of achievements in health.

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File URL: http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2010/papers/HDRP_2010_43.pdf
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Paper provided by Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its series Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) with number HDRP-2010-43.

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Length: 61 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as background research for the 2010 Human Development Report.
Handle: RePEc:hdr:papers:hdrp-2010-43
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  1. David M. Cutler & Mark McClellan, 2001. "Productivity Change in Health Care," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 281-286, May.
  2. Hobijn, Bart & Franses, Philip Hans, 2001. "Are living standards converging?," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 171-200, July.
  3. Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 277-291, March.
  4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2006. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 12269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. David M. Cutler & Angus S. Deaton & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2006. "The Determinants of Mortality," NBER Working Papers 11963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Easterly, William, 1999. " Life during Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 239-76, September.
  9. Randa Sab & Stephen C. Smith, 2002. "Human Capital Convergence: A Joint Estimation Approach," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 49(2), pages 3.
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  12. Ryan D. Edwards, 2008. "The Cost of Uncertain Life Span," NBER Working Papers 14093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Jaypee Sevilla, 2001. "Economic Growth and the Demographic Transition," NBER Working Papers 8685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. David E. Bloom & David Canning, 2004. "The Health and Wealth of Africa," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 5(2), pages 57-81, April.
  15. Neumayer, Eric, 2003. "Beyond income: convergence in living standards, big time," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 275-296, September.
  16. Bloom, David E & Canning, David & Sevilla, Jaypee, 2003. " Geography and Poverty Traps," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 355-78, December.
  17. Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, 1996. "Wealthier is Healthier," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 841-868.
  18. Easterly, William, 1999. "Life during growth : international evidence on quality of life and per capita income," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2110, The World Bank.
  19. Danny Quah, 1996. "Twin Peaks: Growth and Convergence in Models of Distribution Dynamics," CEP Discussion Papers dp0280, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  20. Louis Kaplow, 2006. "Discounting Dollars, Discounting Lives: Intergenerational Distributive Justice and Efficiency," NBER Working Papers 12239, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Bloom, David E. & Canning, David & Sevilla, Jaypee, 2004. "The Effect of Health on Economic Growth: A Production Function Approach," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 1-13, January.
  22. Kevin M. White, 2002. "Longevity Advances in High-Income Countries, 1955-96," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(1), pages 59-76.
  23. Cutler, David & McClellan, Mark, 2001. "Productivity Change in Health Care," Scholarly Articles 2640585, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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