Health is a human right and is essential to development. Good health improves learning capacity, worker productivity, and income. ADB is committed to improving health in Asia and the Pacific by supporting better governance and spending, more water and sanitation infrastructure, and regional collaboration to control communicable diseases.
ADB is focusing on its core areas of expertise in order to better support programs directed at improving overall health in Asia and the Pacific. The emphasis will shift from stand-alone projects to improving the health impact of infrastructure operations, economic governance and public expenditure, regional public goods, partnerships, and knowledge management.
Health is not only a human right and a goal as a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing; but an essential asset of people and families for their own prosperity as it promotes learning, social inclusion, gender equity, child care, and incomes; and contributes to economic growth through savings, productivity and other ways.
The Asia and Pacific region is generally on track in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but not in the case of reducing malnutrition and maternal mortality. Economic development is accompanied by increasing demand for services, inequity and adverse impacts that need to be mitigated. The region's major challenges are the management, quality and affordability of health services. Out-of-pocket payments for health services are very high and a major cause of poverty. Public spending remains low, and external funding remains modest and selective.
ADB selectively supports health sector related interventions in its developing member countries through grants, loans, and technical assistance. Strategy 2020 and An Operational Plan for Improving Health Access and Outcomes under Strategy 2020 defines ADB's approach to achieving positive health outcomes through its core operations.
Asia is the fastest-growing and most dynamic region in the world. Yet public expenditure on health in the region is low with many governments in the region spending less than $10 per person per year on health care. What little is spent is often poorly allocated and inequitable. Personal or out-of-pocket health expenditures are a major cause of impoverishment, pushing 78 million more Asians below the absolute poverty line.
Aside from health care financing, another major challenge facing Asia is disease control and prevention. Regional integration increases the mobility of people and the exchange of goods but may also facilitate the spread of infectious diseases.