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Health expenditure will increase at an average rate of 2.7% per year per capita

According to OECD forecasts, health spending will grow faster than the economy in the coming years. The OECD attributes this to structural causes, but also mentions ways to reduce costs.

Health expenditure will increase at an average rate of 2.7% per year per capita

In its latest report, the OECD estimates that per capita health expenditure will increase at an average rate of 2.7% per year. Consequently, the share of health spending in GDP throughout the OECD zone is expected to increase from 8.8% in 2018 to 10.2% by 2030. This threshold is already being reached in certain countries, such as the United States, Germany, France and Japan.  

Clearly identified causes

Obesity rates continue to rise. 56% of adults are obese or overweight in OECD countries, and nearly a third of children between the ages of 5 and 9 are overweight.

While smoking rates are declining, 18% of adults still smoke every day. Pure alcohol consumption per person stands at around 9 litres per year, corresponding to nearly 100 bottles of wine.

On a more insidious level, air pollution kills an average of 40 people per 100,000 inhabitants per year, rising to 140 in China and India.

Finally, there is the issue of “antibiotic resistance”: some 2.4 million people in Europe, North America and Australia could die from “superbug” infections over the next 30 years. The OECD draws attention to the importance of taking steps to curb this growing trend of resistance to antiobiotics. The OECD estimates that three out of four deaths from these infections could be prevented by simple measures, such as incentives to wash hands and more rational use of antibiotics.

Finding ways to save money

The OECD recommends that governments direct resources to where they will have the greatest impact. 

Here are a few avenues to explore:

  • Encouraging the use of generic medicines, which account for only half of the volumes sold in pharmacies throughout the OECD zone, with up to threefold variations between countries.
  • Transferring certain tasks from doctors to other professionals, such as nurses, in order to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
  • There is also room for improvement in patient safety. Nearly one in twenty hospitalised people have contracted a hospital-acquired infection in recent years. Targeted preventive measures should make it possible to reduce these types of risks, which are considered avoidable.
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