Does Better Health Lead to Better Wealth?

    COPENHAGEN and TALLINN, June 23 /CNW/ - European Health Ministers Meet to
Focus on Link Between Health and Economic Success. New Charter on Health
Systems Expected to be Signed
    It has long been accepted that greater wealth allows people to make
better health choices, but does the reverse apply? Does greater health lead to
greater wealth, both on a personal and a national level?
    This week (25-27 June), ministers of health, international experts, and
over 500 delegates from the 53 countries (1) of the WHO European Region will
meet in Tallinn - at the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Health
Systems: "Health Systems, Health and Wealth" - to discuss a new paradigm for
health systems. They will examine the existing evidence on the relationship
between health and wealth.
    Studies in the WHO European Region show that rises in life expectancy are
clearly matched by improvements in economic performance. Between 1970 and 2003
in the western part of the Region, increases in life expectancy were "worth"
29-38% of gross domestic product (GDP) and far exceeded each country's health
expenditures. In the eastern part of the Region, the relationship is even
clearer: between 1990 and 2003, countries that experienced a reduction in life
expectancy incurred welfare losses of 16-31%, while those that saw life
expectancy rise realized benefits of 12-31% of GDP.
    A German study, covering 1995-2005, found that a 10% increase in health
satisfaction enhanced women's hourly wages by about 0.14-0.47% and men's by
about 0.09-0.88%. A 2006 survey of 26 affluent countries, covering 1960-2000,
found that a 10% reduction in cardiovascular mortality was associated with a
one percentage point increase in the annual growth of per capita income. In a
recent study of the Russian Federation, good health (compared to less good
health) was found to increase wages by 22% for women and 18% for men.

    Three reports on how ill health can be an economic burden and how well-run
health systems can contribute to wealthier societies will be discussed at the
Tallinn Conference:

    -   The economic costs of ill health in the European Region;

    -   Performance measurement for health system improvement: experiences,
        challenges and prospects; and

    -   Health systems, health and wealth: assessing the case for investing
        in health systems.

    These reports are available on the Conference web site

    "Health is a robust predictor of economic growth owing to increased
savings, investment in human capital, labour-market participation,
productivity growth and so on, which makes a strong case for investing in
health systems," says Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
    "However, if health ministers are to win the argument on investment they
need to demonstrate that the health system is really using the resources it is
given effectively and efficiently. Governments have to face difficult choices
when deciding how to allocate resources. Yet they often seem willing to invest
in some elements of their national physical and human infrastructure, for
example in transport systems and education, but less willing to invest in
their most important resource, the health of their people," he adds.
    New WHO european charter on health systems expected to be signed on
Friday 27 June
    The wider recognition that health systems are directly related to
economic performance, both at the individual level and at the national level,
puts health status among the key indicators of a country's economic potential.
To capitalize on that understanding, all 53 WHO European Member States
gathered in Tallinn are expected to sign a new charter on health systems. The
charter aims to reinforce the position that spending on health systems, when
it is cost-effective and appropriate, is a good investment and can benefit the
health, wealth and well-being of populations.


    The Tallinn Conference will be recorded and webcast. A series of
programmes will be published on the multimedia part of the official Conference
web site to highlight the main issues of the plenary and parallel sessions.
Each day, WHO will produce news bulletins and conduct a series of video
interviews. The Conference web site
( will link to the multimedia site,
which can also be reached directly (

    More information for journalists, including the press programme, is
available on the Conference web site

    (1) The Member States of the WHO European Region are: Albania, Andorra,
        Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and
        Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark,
        Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland,
        Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania,
        Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands,
        Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, San
        Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
        Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan,
        Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.

For further information:

For further information: Ms Liuba Negru, Press and Media Relations
Officer, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen 0,
Denmark, Mobile: +37-258-509-081; +45-20-45-92-74, E-mail:

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