School of Population Health

Health Financing

Image - Health Finance

Health financing – the process by which countries mobilise revenue, pool resources and purchase health services from providers – is critical for the performance of all health systems regardless of a country’s level of economic development. Globally health financing systems are under pressure to improve their effectiveness, especially in terms of equity, efficiency, and health outcomes. This pressure has intensified in recent decades as the world embraces the SDG health targets including universal health coverage (UHC) and seeks better ways of funding expansion of essential health services to meet these targets. For high-income countries many of whom already provide universal coverage, there is ever-growing challenge to contain costs, reconcile rising demands for quality care and public financing constraints in the context of rapidly changing demographic and epidemiological profiles. In low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) however, many people do not receive care when they need it or endure catastrophic costs and loss of income as a result of seeking care. The WHO estimates that achieving the SDG health targets in LMICs would require an estimated US$134 billion in new investments annually which would increase over time to $371 billion or $58 per capita by 2030. Meeting the current funding gap requires a well-functioning health financing system capable of raising sufficient revenue to reduce over-reliance on direct payments and ensuring efficient and equitable use of these resources.

At UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine (SPHCM), we conduct cutting-edge health financing and health economics research across LMICs in the Asia-Pacific region but also in high-income countries such as Australia and New Zealand. We evaluate different ways of financing health care to ensure efficiency, fairness and universal access to essential health services. Led by Dr Augustine Asante, our team has evaluated the equity of health financing systems in the context of UHC in Asia-Pacific countries including Cambodia, Fiji and Timor-Leste, and has ongoing project in Indonesia (see links to some of our publications below). We also undertake evaluations of interventions to change the way health care providers, patients and communities respond to health problems.

We believe strongly that policymakers must have access to the best possible research and analysis to ensure their health investments save as many lives as possible. That is why we generate high quality evidence on how countries can make greatest use of their available resources while minimising the burden on the poor. Experience has taught us that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to health systems – all have their own unique set of goals and challenges. Our approach in designing and implementing research studies is therefore driven by the countries themselves, a necessary pre-condition for translating research into policy.