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Development and Health Care System

Updated on April 23, 2012

The importance of health to a society should never be underestimated; it is the bedrock for which all economic activity begins. The popular saying ‘Health is wealth’ goes to reflect that the basis for a wealthy nation is one whose labour force is healthy and ready to give the best of their abilities to ensure growth and development.

Developed countries pay the utmost attention to developing the health sector.For example In the United States, the economy shapes the complex interactions among employment, health coverage and costs, and financial access to care and health outcomes (Bernstein, 2009). The U.S. health care system contributes $2.5 trillion, or nearly 18%, to GDP, the highest percentage in the developed world. Investments in the health sector and the creation of health financing policies have been prioritized because of the interaction between health and the economy. This is because just as growth, income, investment and employment are related to the performance of the economic system, so also do the health conditions depend not just on standards and costs of living, but on the actual performance of existing health systems. Countries with weak health conditions will find it harder to achieve sustained growth if the income gained from output is continuously spent on visits to a hospital, worse still if the workforce is not healthy enough to keep long hours and ensure productivity. Economic evidence confirms that a 10% improvement in life expectancy at birth is associated with a rise in economic growth of some 0.3-0.4 percentage points a year (OECD Observer, 2004).


The environment is a big factor when gauging how healthy a country is. This is as a result of pollution and other hazards that may arise as natural resources are excavated from the earth, as trade and production continue there are adverse effects on the ozone layer, if trees are cut there’s less oxygen and higher chances of flooding, not to forget the effects of gas flaring and the melting of ice glaciers and its effect on rising sea levels and global temperatures.

In 2002 an oil spill occurred off the coast of Galicia in Spain (Prestige oil spill), the spill polluted thousands of kilometers of coastline and beaches on the Spanish, French and Portuguese coast. Concentrations of petroleum contaminants in fish and crab tissue, as well as contamination of shellfish posed a significant potential for adverse human health effects and the fishing industry. Also the pollution of clean water and pipelines affected the citizens directly,but mid and long term effects will be more related with the structure of the ecosystems. Some compounds with biological characteristics will remain in the trophic chain for generations.

When the attractive coastal beaches and resorts were affected they seriously restricted recreational and economic activities thus reducing economic growth from tourism. Components of oil have deadly effects on humans, for example organic compounds can cause respiratory irritation and central nervous system (CNS) depression. Benzene is known to cause leukemia in humans, and toluene is a recognized teratogen at high doses (American medical association, 2010).

Disease hinders institutional performance, lower life expectancy discourages adult skill training and damages productivity. Also the presence of deadly communicable diseases can become an obstacle for the development of sectors like the tourism industry.

Tobacco is among the leading causes of premature death and disability in Europe. The cost of the diseases it causes is very high. A recent study has estimated the direct and indirect costs of smoking in the European Union -25 to total EUR 97.70 billion to EUR 130.31 billion in 2000, corresponding to between EUR 211 and EUR 281 per capita and between 1.04 % and 1.39 % of the region’s GDP in 2000 (Ross 2004). Smoking-related costs in Canada range between 1.39 % (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse 1996) and 2.2 % of its GDP (Kaiserman, 1997). Judging by its effect on gdp it is obvious that health has a big role to play in ensuring growth and development, countries all over the world have invested in developing health care programs that can accommodate a higher percentage of the population with a view to promoting the health sector. For example the U.S Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 significantly changed health care in the U.S., making insurance available to 32 million more Americans and a total of 95% of the legal population, starting phasing in new health care benefits and costs that year with subsidies to seniors with high prescription drug costs.


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