This volume, comprising six articles and related commentary, examines the relationship between economic growth and investment in health. It emerged from the Commission on Growth and Development, which convened from 2006 through 2008 to discuss the diverse causes and impacts of economic growth.
While evidence clearly shows that positive economic growth contributes to better health outcomes, as measured by better nutrition, longer life expectancy, and lower communicable disease rates, among other indicators, the extent of the reverse relationship—that is, whether improved population health directly contributes to economic growth—is less clear. The lack of comprehensive metrics to measure health makes determining the degree of this causation challenging, as do other potential compounding factors; for example, countries with more effective health systems often benefit from greater institutional strength overall, complicating the identification of individual causal relationships. The articles in this volume explore existing evidence around this relationship, which is tenuous.
The final article explores the impact of early childhood investment in health and nutrition on future individual and household earnings. On this topic, the scientific evidence demonstrates clearly that investing in health and nutrition at an early age can lead to higher incomes, help break cycles of intergenerational poverty, and contribute to long run economic growth.
Co-editor Michael Spence is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean, Emeritus, at Stanford University. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001.