fbpx ADB's Focus on Health: Overview | Asian Development Bank


Good health boosts learning, worker productivity, and income. ADB is committed to improving health in Asia and the Pacific by supporting better governance, more water and sanitation infrastructure, and regional collaboration.

ADB's Work in the Health Sector

Health is a human right and is essential to development. Good health improves learning, worker productivity, and income. As such, health contributes to economic growth.

Asia is the fastest-growing and most dynamic region in the world, but government spending on public health is low and is often not focused on those who need it most. For many in the region, personal health expenses are a major cause of poverty.

Another major challenge facing Asia is disease control and prevention. Countries working together, which increases the movement of people across borders and the exchange of goods, can also spread diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

While the Asia and Pacific region is generally on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, this is not the case for reducing malnutrition and maternal mortality.

This section highlights the health issues and trends in developing Asia and the Pacific.

Health Issues in Asia and the Pacific

Maternal and Child Health

Government spending on mothers, infants, and children is an investment with major social and economic returns. Households with healthier and better nourished mothers and children spend less on healthcare. It is also an investment in fairness, equity, and social inclusiveness.

Every year, 9.2 million children in the world die before their fifth birthday, as do more than half a million pregnant women. Asia and the Pacific account for more than 41% of under-five deaths in the world, more than 44% of maternal deaths, and more than 56% of newborn deaths. About 60% of stunted children live in Asia and the Pacific, and two-thirds of babies born with low birth weights are from the region.

Key document: Investing in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health: The Case for Asia and the Pacific


Communicable Diseases

Regional integration, or the process of countries working together more closely, increases the ability of people to move across borders and trade goods. It also helps spread diseases, which impose a heavy social, financial and economic burden on people and governments. The poor are the most affected by the infectious diseases that cross borders.

Infectious disease affects many aspects of society. Transport, for example, has been linked to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. The improvement of water supply, sanitation, and waste management systems has a direct impact on decreasing diarrhea, which kills children in developing countries. The prevention and control of HIV and other communicable diseases requires countries and development agencies to work together.


Pandemics and Emerging Diseases

An influenza pandemic in Asia and the Pacific would put the health of millions at risk and have serious economic consequences. According to ADB research, it could lower Asia's growth rate to zero and reduce the global trade of goods and services by 14%.

The outbreak of the H5N1 virus (avian flu) in late 2003 severely damaged poultry production in several countries, and its reappearance in 2005 showed that there is continued risk of human infection. The 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic infected more than 6,500 people worldwide and consumer confidence dramatically declined in a number of economies, leading to a significant reduction in private consumer spending. Governments need to play a major role in the prevention and containment of these dangerous new diseases and fast spreading illnesses. This includes supporting research for rapid and effective diagnosis and treatment.


Strengthening Health Systems and Services

Financing of health care is a major - and growing - policy challenge for many countries in Asia. Although Asia has been the fastest-growing and most dynamic region in the world for decades, many governments in Asia spend less than $10 per person per year on health care. High levels of out-of-pocket health care spending have pushed 78 million more Asians into poverty.

Aging populations and noncommunicable diseases that are expensive to treat but often preventable - such as diabetes and cancers linked to tobacco - will impose heavy costs on households and public health budgets. Asia's health systems need to improve their effectiveness, efficiency, access, equity, and quality. Effective public-private partnerships are an important part of this process.


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