Angus Deaton on Health and Inequality

socialsciencebitesHow far can you link trends on health prevention to economic development? What is the role of NGO and Governmental aid in helping to address and support the health inequalities in developing countries? Is this aid vital to combat mortality rates and address longstanding health problems, or is it in turn creating an unsustainable system that is doing more bad than good? Talking with Dr. Nigel Warburton in the latest episode of Social Science Bites, Professor Angus Deaton, Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University, discusses the theories around health and inequality and factors behind health care improvements.

As Professor Deaton explains there has been a remarkable change in health in the last couple of hundred years “and that is the foundation for where we are today […] we don’t expect to die as children […] and then we are making substantial progress on not dying as adults of as elderly as we beat back cardiovascular disease”

Whilst developments in health care and diagnosis can clearly be seen through such examples as life expectancy, Professor Deaton takes this one step further through a discussion about the connection between economic advances and flourishing health. He remarks that the connection “is very hard” to tease out “some people will argue that economic health is the precursor for all health progress too and that without the growth you’re not going to get much health progress. Other people” he goes onto say, “argue that without the health first, you’re not going to get much economic growth because people have to be healthy to take the benefit of it”.

Deaton goes onto coax out further connections and discussion around health inequality looking at inequalities between developed and developing worlds and the role of Government and NGO in supporting this aid:

“Kids are dying from things that we’ve known how to fix a really really long time ago […] so these inequalities just seem absolutely outrageous. They are something which you should be able to do something about. The question is what […] I’m sceptical as to whether foreign aid – aid from outside – is very effective in doing very much about this. And it’s not that it’s not effective on the health side […] the down side, as with all aid, is that in the end you have to have you own indigenous health service which is actually run by the people according to their needs”

Debating the involvement of NGOs and Government and aid in health improvements and talking about the wider health inequalities in India, Deaton raises some interesting questions around the relationship between health care and the economy and what should be done about this inequality in health care developments.

Listen to the podcast in full to find out more.

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