“A New Era of Philanthropy and Investment in Global Health” – A Close Look at the Global Health Giving Trends

As the world holistically tackles global issues in accordance with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), numerous studies have been conducted on the global giving pattern in order to raise the cost-effectiveness of development assistance. However, few of them focus specifically on the global health sector. 

To fill in this gap, PSI partnered with Devex and Fenton Communications to publish a survey report on the global health funding . The report compiles global giving data from donors, and documents interviews with representatives from the pivotal global funding organizations. Although the aggregate giving data on global health is unavailable as explained in the letter from the editors, the work seeks to inspire further explorations and attentions into the “future of global health financing and inspire collaboration that leads to sustainable global health solutions.”

The report analyzes the giving patterns of government sector of the 23 members of OECD/DAC and the foundation sector including corporate and private donors.

The report shows that the total commitment of 23 OECD/DAC members to the global health sector increased 200% from 2001 to 2008, although it fell in 2009 in response to the global financial crisis. This soaring funding has been largely utilized in the battle with HIV/AIDS epidemic. The U.S, U.K. and Canada contributed the most to the global health from 2005-2010 among these 23 countries, with the U.S spent about $25.5billion in total. 

According to the report, the OECD/DAC donors’ regional focus has shifted to the sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and, East Asia and Pacific. Part of this focus change might be attributed to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases in the sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

It’s also worth mentioning that besides developed countries represented by the OECD/DAC members, BRICS — the five giants in the developing world have been playing a prominent role in improving global health as well, despite the fact that their contribution is poorly documented in years and thus hard to be interpreted in aggregate monetary figures.

For instance, over the past five to ten years, Brazil has accomplished about 150 global health projects through the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), a governmental agency working on “all international technical cooperation” under the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil. Russia, also a fast-growing development assistance donor, has shown its muscle in the global health sector in recent years. During its presidency of G-8 in 2006, Russia set health as priority on its agenda for the first time and actively organized a series of international meetings on both infectious and non-communicable diseases. China, on the other hand, has been dispatching medical assistance groups overseas since 1963. In 2009, about 60 Chinese medical groups were providing medical service in 57 developing countries’ medical agencies.

As recipients of global health funding, BRICS countries also expanded efforts in tackling domestic health issues.  China spent $398.5 billion through 2005-2009, the most among all surveyed health funding recipients, followed by South Africa and India.

In the meantime, corporate and private foundations both started exploring more sustainable giving to the global health sector. The top 10 corporate foundation donors committed $325 billion to global health in total from 2006-2010. With such a considerable contribution, the corporate philanthropy achieved a transformation from purely cash donation to the “more hands-on partnership”, according to the report. For example, the Abbott Fund, which ranks the first on the top 10 list, convened “a 10-year public-private partnership” with the Tanzanian government dedicated to improving healthcare system and other areas with urgent needs. 

On the top 10 list of private foundation donors (2006-2010), 8 of them are prominent American foundations such as Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation. Gates Foundation alone donated $8 billion in total from 2006-2010.

In addition to the presentation of facts and data, the report also documents interviews with several representatives from each sector, including Justine Greening, the UK Secretary of State for International Development and Karl Hofmann, the President and CEO of PSI. These interviews have further shed a light on the trends in global health giving as the world moving into the post-2015 era. Based on these accounts, we can anticipate an expanding focus on women and children, more holistic promotion of social innovation, more organic partnerships between corporate and NGOs, and a more interwoven contribution of public and private sectors.


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