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Common Goods for Health project by WHO

Common Goods for Health project by WHO

Tag:GS2||International Relations||International Organizations||Specialized Agencies of UN

 Why in news?

  • Common Goods for Health (CGH) is a project launched by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • There is a need for external funders and governments to prioritize investments in core health system functions that are fundamental to protecting and promoting health and well-being. As a call for action, WHO, in close collaboration with external partners, has developed a knowledge program on financing common goods for health.

 What is CGH:

  • Common Goods for Health (CGH) are population-based functions or interventions that require collective financing, either from the government or donors based on the following conditions:
    • Contribute to health and economic progress;
    • There is a clear economic rationale for interventions based on market failures, with a focus on (i) Public Goods (Non-Rival, Non-Exclusionary) or (ii) large social externalities.
  • CGH avoids the near-universal confusion associated with the terms ‘public health’, ‘public good’, and public health expenditure.

Need For CGH:

  • Population-scale interventions: CGH uses the population-scale interventions which reduce the disease burden.
  • Fiscal Impetus: Given the growing fiscal exposure of the government to health care expenses, there is now a direct fiscal impetus to do more on these population-scale interventions.
  • The CGH covers market failure in the form of ‘public goods’ and ‘externalities.
  • Population-scale interventions reduce new threats such as pandemics and air quality, and also the unfinished agenda of traditional public health in India.

Foundations of public health:

  • The dangers of a global pandemic such as Ebola, the problems of air quality in India, or the health consequences of environmental degradation and climate change is a very large problem that has adverse consequences for hundreds of millions of people:
    • If we merely focused on health care, this is an inefficient response. We should not merely think about public policy responses in the form of curing people in an Ebola epidemic or curing the people who are harmed by the air quality in North India, etc. We must go upstream, and combat these problems at the root.
    • It is in the nature of the governance process to creep away from public health towards health care.

The relation between CGH and public finance:

  • Reduced health care expenditures: Improvements in public health will reduce the extent to which people get sick, thus giving reduced health care expenditures. This justifies an enhanced focus upon CGH for governments worldwide, who have a worrying fiscal exposure to health care, even if the main consideration was public expenditure and not the happiness of the populace
  • Reducing the fiscal burden:
    • CGH will help in reducing the fiscal burden associated with government programs that pay for health care. Doing better on CGH is a stepping stone for the financing and thus the feasibility of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The fiscal exposure to health care expenses has risen sharply through the launch of many government-sponsored health insurance schemes or “GSHIS”.
    • Debt: There are concerns about the magnitude of the implicit debt associated with the health insurance promises made by the Indian state.
    • A fresh focus upon CGH will help reduce the expenditures and the fiscal risk associated with the promises that have been made about health care.

Status Of India:

  • CGH Agenda: The CGH agenda cuts across many ministries and agencies of government. As an example, problems like air quality or road safety have a major impact upon health care expenses in India, and these problems lie outside the Ministry of Health.
  • Coordination: There is a need for coordination mechanisms that cut across various elements of the Indian state that have to discharge these responsibilities. This is similar to the problems of disaster risk resilience, which cut across many parts of the Indian state.
  • Difficulties in health care: In India, we have many difficulties in health care. This amplifies the importance of CGH. It is better for a person to not get sick, as compared with going into a faulty health care system.
  • Increasingly expenditures: The Indian state is increasingly exposed to expenditures associated with health care. To the extent that people do not get sick, the fiscal burden associated with a given set of promises made by the government will be smaller. This amplifies the importance of CGH.


  • Global health policy is a supertanker and there will be no substantial change in the short run. The WHO’s CGH project is, however, a push in the right direction, and is likely to slowly bring about a shift in health policy worldwide. It is particularly important in India, where the traditional public health agenda has obtained inadequate attention, and the disease burden is consequentially high.