18 September 2015

Commentary: Why it makes economic sense to invest in well-being of women and children in Asia

By C.K. Mishra and Amina J. Mohammed  

We often think of money spent on hospitals or schools as “costs”: the government raises money via taxes, and spends it on things such as new hospitals or hiring teachers. Money is raised, and money is spent. End of story. But rather than “costs”, it would be more appropriate to consider such spending as “investments” because it accrues long-term rights and dividends to the economy and to society. According to recent research, some of the best returns accrue from investments in the health and well-being of women, children and young people.

Take the example of childbirth. According to a study published in the Lancet, money spent on providing good antenatal healthcare leads to a “triple” return on investment to the economy and the society at large. Meanwhile, investments aimed at improving nutrition have, on average, a benefit-cost ratio of 16:1.

When preventable complications arise during labour, the woman and her child may be left permanently sick or disabled. This will impose huge long-term costs on them and their families, and on the government too.