Healthcare: An economic driver

OECD Health Ministers Meeting, 13-14 May 2004

Mexico's Health Secretary Julio Frenk, who chaired the OECD Health Ministers' Meeting. ©OECD/Jacques Brinon

The value of shared learning and mutual understanding: this was a key message of the OECD Health Ministers Meeting last May. The agenda showed the myriad areas where economic analysis can enrich policy design: from quality, efficiency and cost-effective provision, to the economics of prevention and the incentives for innovation.

The meeting was an opportunity for ministers to discuss different perspectives and experiences, and the importance of bringing together health and economics for the benefit of policymaking was in evidence. There is no single recipe for addressing the complexities of health sector reform. Rather, the availability of a broad menu of options to ensure the financial sustainability of health systems through more emphasis on preventive care greatly enhances the policy process.

There was a lively discussion on the role of innovation and its capacity to ensure that advances in science are translated into benefits for patients. All agreed that those in greatest need should have access to healthcare and the latest medical technologies.

A memorable highlight of the meeting was the joint discussion between ministers of health and finance. Such encounters between these ministries are unusual for most countries, and this was their first-ever coming together at the OECD. It was another excellent opportunity to confirm the significant role health systems play in our economies.

The discussion went beyond the traditional focus on cost-containment to a more profound analysis of the many ways health system performance and economic growth interact. And it underscored how much of what governments do is interrelated, cutting across disciplines, and how horizontal approaches that harness different expertise to solve problems can improve our knowledge and policymaking.

The OECD 2004 Health Ministers Meeting was a landmark in international cooperation and contributed to a better understanding of the central role of health in the development agenda. Mexico has benefited greatly from this exchange and we look forward to contributing to future work. Today, more than ever, economic and social policy must be treated as two sides of the same coin.


Frenk, Julio (2004), “Health and the economy: A vital relationship”, in OECD Observer No 243, May 2004.

©OECD Observer No 244, September 2004

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019