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Improving health: Evidence on returns to public investment

United Nations’ adoption of the sustainable Development Goals emphasises the importance of investments in improved health. But how should ministers of finance and donors compare the returns on investment in the health sector to the other opportunities for investing in development – like infrastructure and education investments? In a landmark paper published in the Lancet in 2013, a group of economists including Nobel prize winner Ken Arrow and the Centre for Global Development board chairman Lawrence Summers estimated that the world would accrue $9 in returns for every dollar it invests in improving the health of the poorest populations.

This seminar reviewed the methods used by the authors of the 2013 paper and then applied them to the proposed investment in “ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030”. The concluding discussion considered the application of similar methods to estimating the rate-of-return to other hard-to- value social investments outside the health sector.

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Last modified: November 14, 2023

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