According to the UN, 100 million people fall into extreme poverty each year due to health-related shocks. Recently, the Covid-19 crisis pushed half a billion people into extreme financial insecurity. The impact of climate change only exacerbates this trend and will contribute to an increase in deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.
Approximately 50% of adults in emerging economies worry that they will not be able to meet their expenses in the event of a serious illness or accident, and 36% report that health care costs are their primary concern.
Despite these findings, to date, very little attention has been paid to the link between economic empowerment and health. This is surprising given the strong relationship between income inequality, poverty and health.
Economic empowerment: An ally for good health and well-being
Economic empowerment relies on three pillars: sustainable access to adapted financial services, financial education, and the possibility for all to control their finances. By helping to reduce inequality and poverty, economic empowerment has a critical impact on access to health care. But beyond this indirect impact, economic empowerment, and in particular access to financial services, has a direct positive influence on people's health. In itself, financial inclusion has a positive impact on life expectancy.
How does economic empowerment contribute to health?
- By helping people save for medical emergencies, facilitating access to preventive care, and increasing access to health care, especially in countries with underdeveloped universal health insurance systems.
- By assisting disadvantaged populations to prepare for, respond to, and recover from crises such as pandemics, inflation, or economic and climatic shocks.
- By minimizing the highly unpredictable nature of illnesses or accidents and reducing their destabilizing effect on poor households' budgets. Health savings and credit products are solutions to reduce vulnerability in case of illness or accident.
- By reducing health care costs. Research shows that when households have access to health savings accounts, their long-term health costs decrease because they seek care sooner.
- By providing access to higher quality health resources: nutritious food, clean energy and improved sanitation.
- By reducing stress through greater financial stability.
Beyond health, medication or life insurance, there are multiple links between access to financial services and, more globally, between economic empowerment, health and well-being. By increasing the economic empowerment of the most disadvantaged populations, it is possible to create several health benefits. Economic empowerment is an indispensable component of sustainable development and a powerful tool to enable all people to live healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages.