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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 E. Bloom & David Canning & Jaypee Sevilla, 2001. "Economic Growth and the Demographic Transition," NBER Working Papers 8685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ryan Edwards, 2013. "The cost of uncertain life span," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(4), pages 1485-1522, October.
  3. 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.
  4. Bloom, David E & Canning, David & Sevilla, Jaypee, 2003. "Geography and Poverty Traps," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 355-78, December.
  5. Louis Kaplow, 2006. "Discounting Dollars, Discounting Lives: Intergenerational Distributive Justice and Efficiency," NBER Working Papers 12239, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
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