UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Leading economists and health experts call for radical rethinking to put health at centre

21 March 2022

Chaired by UCL IIPP’s Founding Director Professor Mariana Mazzucato, the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All calls for rethinking value for Health for All to address people, planet and promoting equity in its latest policy brief.

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Chaired by UCL IIPP’s Founding Director Professor Mariana Mazzucato, the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All calls for rethinking value for Health for All to address people, planet and promoting equity in its latest policy brief, launched at a side event during the CEPI Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit 2022.

It often takes a crisis or a catastrophe to expose what we truly value as a society, and to lay bare our failure to build an economy around such values. In 2020, global GDP increased by $2.2 trillion because of expenditure on armaments while only a fraction of that – just $50 billion – is needed to vaccinate the entire world, and just $23 billion is needed to fund the ACT-Accelerator. No amount of tinkering with GDP as the measure of progress can address the fundamental schism between the goal of Health for All and what is presently valued.

A radical reorientation of value is therefore necessary. The Council suggests this reorientation should start with the primary goal – Health for All – to decide what should be valued; then the values for Health for All should be mapped backwards to identify economic and financial policy levers towards positioning health as an investment.

Launched on the International Women’s Day—8th March—the Council calls for a radical revaluation of contributions especially by women that are fundamental to sustaining human and planetary health, but are constantly undervalued. Globally, women spend two and a half more hours per day than men on unpaid work.

The Council calls for a “dashboard” and whole of society approach to rethinking value, in which no single universal metric can encompass the different components of Health for All. While access to health services is vital, so too are recognition and resources for broader social determinants of health, such as good education, decent working conditions and clean environments including water and sanitary facilities, whose complex interaction can either help or hinder achieving the goal of Health for All.

WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All's latest recommendations for valuing Health for All:

1. Valuing planetary health, including essential common goods such as water and air, with respect to planetary and ecological boundaries.

2. Valuing the diverse social foundations and activities that promote equity, including social cohesion, supporting those in need, and enabling communities to thrive.

3. Valuing human health and wellbeing, with every person able to prosper physically, mentally and emotionally, and provided with the capabilities and freedom needed to lead lives of dignity, opportunity, and community.  

Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director at UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose and Chair of the Council, said:

The central message of the brief is that we need to measure the Value of Everything – the things that truly matter. We need to revalue health and wellbeing – and its sustenance through care without financial burden – as the central measure of success in society and economy."

Dr Tedros, WHO Director General, said:

Realizing Health for All values requires a whole-of-society and person-centred approaches. In its new brief the Council lays out values fundamental to realize health and well-being for every person on our planet. Arguing for a paradigm shift, the brief sets out the Council’s framework for building up an economy for health, alongside ecological sustainability and planetary health.”

The WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All was established in November 2020 by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The Council’s core mission is to rethink how value in health and wellbeing is measured, produced, and distributed across the economy. It recommends a new way to shape the economy with the objective of building healthy societies that are just, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable.  

Comprised of ten of the world’s leading economists and health experts, the Council is focused on rethinking measurement of economic development, financing, capacity, and innovation with the aim of achieving Health for All. Policy briefs in each of these areas, and a comprehensive final report to be produced in 2023, will be used to build momentum amongst key decision makers  towards changing the structure of economic activity to advance Health For All. 

The members of the Council are Professor Mariana Mazzucato (Chair), Professor Senait Fisseha, Professor Jayati Ghosh, Vanessa Huang, Professor Stephanie Kelton, Professor Ilona Kickbusch, Zelia Maria Profeta da Luz, Kate Raworth, Dr Vera Songwe and Dame Marilyn Waring.

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