Developing countries can boost life expectancy by sparing 5% of GDP in healthcare: FII-I

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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If governments in developing countries invest 5 percent more of gross domestic product in reinforcing the healthcare system the life expectancy can be extended by nine years, according to a new report by Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative Institute (FII-I).

The report published ahead of the fourth edition of the Future Investment Initiative which is to be held in Riyadh from January 27 to 28, highlights the need for integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics in existing healthcare systems, which has the potential to increase the efficiency of investment by up to 20 percent.

“Artificial Intelligence shows considerable promise for preventing drug-resistant outbreaks. Databases containing the genomes from different strains of the pathogen are growing, along with information about whether they were susceptible to antibiotics. Using this data, AI can allow scientists to identify the DNA sequences that indicate resistance. This can speed up the treatment of diseases like TB,” the report said.

AI also has the capacity to alert the world to the threat of any disease outbreak, according to the report. In December 2019, the COVID-19 outbreak alert was first given by a Canadian company BlueDot. The technology firm used an algorithm to trawl notifications, disease networks, global news stories and airline ticket information to predict how the pandemic would spread.

The coronavirus pandemic pushed the global healthcare systems to the brink as the number of infections surged beyond capacity. At the beginning of the year, many hospitals had a shortage of ventilators and beds.

The pandemic has infected about 74.5 million people globally and claimed more than 1.65 million lives, according to Worldometer, a website that tracks the real-time statistics of the outbreak. More than 52.3 million people have recovered from the infection.

The FII-I report further adds that Africa has a long way to go to meet the United Nation’s health-related Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. “With 16 percent of the global population, the continent accounts for 26 percent of the global disease burden, yet receives less than 2 percent of total global healthcare funding.”

The age demographics of Africa is also a challenge, the report states. The world’s second-most populous continent will see its population double by 2050, with one-third among it under the age of 14.

“While this has the potential to create a ‘demographic dividend’, boosting economic growth and productivity, the flip side is that the 60 percent of Africa’s population currently under 20 will, by 2050, be starting to age,” the report said.

The report forecast that, in 30 years, Africa’s health systems will be under immense pressure as they need to respond to the needs of an aging population and other segments of society.

The current healthcare funding gap for the continent is around $66 billion per annum and it is a serious obstacle in achieving affordable universal healthcare goal by 2030.