Simone Rensch – Timor-Leste spends the least amount of money on healthcare than any other country in the world, a new map has revealed.
The Southeast Asian nation only spends 2.4% of government expenditure on healthcare, according to a map released last month by laser eye survey company Focus Clinic. This comes as international experts call for increased investment in public health.
The World Health Organisation and the World Bank found half the world lacks access to health services and 100 million people are pushed into poverty because of health expenses, in a report out in December.
Focus Clinic's map showed countries spending the least on healthcare services are in Africa and Asia, including Laos at 3.4%, Myanmar and Eritrea at 3.6%, and Yemen and Azerbaijan at 3.9%.
Overall, seven of the ten countries with the lowest healthcare spending are located in Asia, with the remaining three in Africa.
The World Bank's global lead on health financing Christorph Kurowski told PF International: "This situation represents the low levels of public investments in health. Out-of-pocket payments by individuals – which are the most inefficient and inequitable way to finance a health system – loom large.
"Governments should prioritise pre-paid and pooled financing to ensure that health systems are sustainably and equitably financed at scale.
"There is a strong complementary and supportive role for donor funds and the private sector, but country governments need to be in the driver's seat and significantly scaling up investment in health."
This compares to Andorra with the highest percentage of government expenditure reserved for healthcare at 27.9%, followed by Maldives at 26.6% and Nicaragua at 24%.
But global health policy and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development Kalipso Chalkidou said government spending on health is not always enough to determine the health outcomes. She told PF International: "The percentage of gross domestic product spending targets may not be a good enough proxy for performance.
"In fast growing economies, health spending will grow in absolute terms even if the percentage of GDP stays the same. So the amount spent on healthcare matters, but it is far from the only thing that determines the results."
She pointed out that even countries who spend relatively more than other on healthcare may still not see good health outcomes and more needs to be done than just putting money into the system.