World Health Organization estimates cost of reaching global health targets by 2030

02 August 2017 WHO

An analysis from the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Health Price Tag shows that 97 million premature deaths could be prevented globally between now and 2030 if investments to expand services towards universal health coverage are implemented, adding as much as 8.4 years of life expectancy in some countries. While most countries can afford the investments needed, the poorest nations will continue to need assistance to reach the targets.

"Universal health coverage is ultimately a political choice. It is the responsibility of every country and national government to pursue it."
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General 

Adopted by the United Nations in 2015, the SDGs are a set of 17 interlinked goals with 169 targets for a healthier, safer and fairer world to be reached by 2030. The SDG Health Price Tag, published in The Lancet Global Health, is a model that estimates the costs and benefits of progressively expanding health services to reach 16 SDG health targets in 67 low- and middle-income countries that account for 75% of the world’s population.

The model considers ‘ambitious’ and ‘progress’ scenarios, depending on how much investment is required to achieve the targets. In both scenarios, health system investments such as employing more health workers; building and operating new clinics, hospitals and laboratories; and buying medical equipment account for about 75% of the total. The remaining costs are for medicines, vaccines, syringes and other commodities used to prevent or treat specific diseases, and for activities such as training, health campaigns and outreach to vulnerable communities.

What will a healthier world cost?

An ambitious scenario would require new investments increasing over time from an initial $134 billion USD annually to $371 billion, or $58 per person, to achieve the SDG health targets by 2030. This includes adding more than 23 million health workers, and building more than 415 000 new health facilities, 91% of which would be primary healthcare centres. The investments could prevent 97 million premature deaths, including 20 million deaths from noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

The progress scenario would require new investments increasing from an initial $104 billion USD a year to $274 billion, or $41 per person, to achieve the SDG health targets by 2030. More than 14 million new health workers would be added, and nearly 378 000 new health facilities built, 93% of which would be primary health care centres – helping prevent about 71 million premature deaths.