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By Annie Haakenstad and Joseph Dieleman 

After more than a decade of immense growth, development assistance for health has flat lined. Development assistance for health (DAH) fueled a scale up of antiretrovirals, insecticide-treated bed nets, vaccinations and a host of important global health interventions. Over the same period, the spread of a number of infectious diseases was reversed, reducing premature death and disability across the developing world. The plateau in international funding may threaten to slow progress or even roll back these gains.

However, it is difficult to know how stagnation in international funding for health will affect the amount of resources available. For developing countries, our knowledge of disease-specific spending by governments and prepaid private pools is limited. We know even less about how much populations spend out-of-pocket on lifesaving drugs or preventive measures. These expenses are particularly important for understanding the dynamics between health and poverty, issues at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

The future of health financing thus requires investments in health financing data. These data are vital to effective, evidence-based policy making. Spending indicators represent the realization of priorities across the health sector, but also advance our knowledge of the provision of health services, inequality and other core characteristics of health systems. Information about financing gaps and the investment landscape more generally can help development assistance partners take timely action to avoid programmatic shortfalls or seize short-lived opportunities for impact.

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Joseph Dieleman is an Assistant Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington.

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