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Developing Countries Devoting More Spending to Health

But in some countries, international aid is partly replacing, not supplementing, spending

FRIDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Between 1995 and 2006, government health spending doubled in low-income countries, and the 2006 total of $18 billion was triple the amount of development health assistance received from international sources. However, in some low-income countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, international aid is partially replacing -- not supplementing -- domestic health budgets, according to an article published online April 9 in The Lancet.

Christopher Murray, M.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues performed a systematic analysis of all data sources available for government spending on health in developing countries, including databases from the World Health Organization and the International Monetary Fund and government reports.

In countries where international aid partially replaced domestic health budgets, the researchers found that governments shifted between 43 cents and $1.14 of their funds to other priorities for every $1 spent in health aid. However, in countries where non-governmental organizations received most of the international aid and spent it on domestic health projects, the researchers found that government health spending appears to have increased. These divergent trends raise serious questions about health financing in low-income countries, the authors write.

"There has been a tremendous commitment around the world to improve the health of populations in the poorest countries," Murray said in a statement. "In order to know how well these global efforts are working, we need to be able to see clearly where the money is going and then identify best practices where these financial commitments to health are making the greatest difference in saving lives."

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