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Working Paper 38 - Health Development in Africa


Good health is important because it is an intrinsic element of human welfare. As a component of human capital, health is also a key factor in the creation of wealth. The close connection between health and wealth has been emphasized in a recent paper by Pritchett and Summers (1996) who explore a causal relationship between the two phenomena and conclude that wealthier nations are healthier nations. Wealthier nations are in a stronger position to provide better health to the population. Better health in turn increases labor productivity, thereby enhancing wealth.

Apart from being both a constituent part of human welfare and a factor of production, good health contributes directly to enjoyment of life. In this respect, it is in the same category as other goods and services such as housing and education that fulfil this function. As an intrinsic element of well-being, health is a good summary indicator of human development (see e.g., Sen, 1995). Health development -a process of sustained improvements in health status -should thus be an important target of development policy.

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