A general consensus exists that as a country develops economically, health spending per capita rises and the share of that spending that is prepaid through government or private mechanisms also rises. However, the speed and magnitude of these changes vary substantially across countries, even at similar levels of development. In this study, we use past trends and relationships to estimate future health spending, disaggregated by the source of those funds, to identify the financing trajectories that are likely to occur if current policies and trajectories evolve as expected.


We extracted data from WHO’s Health Spending Observatory and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Financing Global Health 2015 report. We converted these data to a common purchasing-power-adjusted and inflation-adjusted currency. We used a series of ensemble models and observed empirical norms to estimate future government out-of-pocket private prepaid health spending and development assistance for health. We aggregated each country’s estimates to generate total health spending from 2013 to 2040 for 184 countries. We compared these estimates with each other and internationally recognized benchmarks.


Global spending on health is expected to increase from US$7.83 trillion in 2013 to $18.28 (uncertainty interval 14.42–22.24) trillion in 2040 (in 2010 purchasing power parity-adjusted dollars). We expect per capita health spending to increase annually by 2.7% (1.9–3.4) in high-income countries, 3.4% (2.4–4.2) in upper-middle-income countries, 3.0% (2.3–3.6) in lower-middle-income countries, and 2.4% (1.6–3.1) in low-income countries. Given the gaps in current health spending, these rates provide no evidence of increasing parity in health spending. In 1995 and 2015, low-income countries spent $0.03 for every dollar spent in high-income countries, even after adjusting for purchasing power, and the same is projected for 2040. Most importantly, health spending in many low-income countries is expected to remain low. Estimates suggest that, by 2040, only one (3%) of 34 low-income countries and 36 (37%) of 98 middle-income countries will reach the Chatham House goal of 5% of gross domestic product consisting of government health spending.


Despite remarkable health gains, past health financing trends and relationships suggest that many low-income and lower-middle-income countries will not meet internationally set health spending targets and that spending gaps between low-income and high-income countries are unlikely to narrow unless substantive policy interventions occur. Although gains in health system efficiency can be used to make progress, current trends suggest that meaningful increases in health system resources will require concerted action.


Dieleman JL, Templin T, Sadat N, Reidy P, Chapin A, Foreman K, Haakenstad A, Evans T, Murray CJL, Kurowski C. National spending on health by source for 184 countries between 2013 and 2040. The Lancet. 2016 Apr 13. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30167-2.