Pro-poor health policies in poverty reduction strategies

Leontien Laterveer, Louis W. Niessen, Abdo S. Yazbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Since 1999, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have required low-income countries soliciting for debt relief and financial support to prepare a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The objective of this study is to arrive at a systematic assessment of the extent to which the first batch of interim PRSPs actually addresses the health of the poor and vulnerable. A literature study was used to design and test a semi-quantitative approach to assess the pro-poor focus of health policies in national documents. The approach was applied to the existing interim proposals for 23 Highly Indebted Poor Countries. Results show that a majority of proposals lack country-specific data on the distribution and composition of the burden of disease, a clear identification of health system constraints and an assessment of the impact of health services on the population. More importantly, they make little effort to analyze these issues in relation to the poor. Furthermore, only a small group explicitly includes the interests of the poor in health policy design. Attention to policies aiming at enhancing equity in public health spending is even more limited. Few papers that include expenditure proposals also show pro-poor focused health budgets. We conclude that our systematic assessment of a new international development policy instrument, PRSP, raises strong concerns about the attributed role of health in development and the limited emphasis on the poor, the supposed primary beneficiaries of this instrument. There is a need and an opportunity for the international development community to provide assistance and inputs as poor countries shift their policy thinking from an interim stage to fully developed national policies. This paper presents a menu of analytical and policy options that can be pursued.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-145
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Developing Countries
  • Financing, Organized
  • Health Expenditures
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Poverty
  • Public Health
  • United Nations
  • Vulnerable Populations

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