Torgeir Haugaar, Norwegian Defence Media Centre

Health challenges after the crisis

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, one question is how to balance the short-term pressure on the health budgets with the long-term obligations to deliver ever better health services to the public. Striking the right balance is not an easy task.

The financial crisis may also increase social inequalities in health between and within our countries. To avoid inequalities there is a need to integrate health into all policies.

These challenges are on the agenda of the OECD ministerial meeting in Paris, October 2010. The outcome of the meeting will hopefully provide valuable input for all health ministers. Then the economic crisis may provide a window of opportunity to rethink health priorities.

As health minister in Norway, I face a number of challenges. Norway and other OECD countries are highly integrated in the global economy. The challenges are therefore common for many countries. The demographic change with growing numbers of elderly people is one major issue. In some countries the percentage of people over 80 is expected to double by the year 2040. A longer life is one of the great success stories of the health systems. However, an aging population will require more health and care services. Furthermore, we are facing the challenge of a smaller percentage of population working to finance these increasing costs.

At the same time the burden of disease is changing in most OECD countries. The number of patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, is rapidly increasing. More people are diagnosed with mental problems. Obesity is increasing. All this has to be handled through our health systems.

A major challenge is to organise the health systems so that they maximise health and give better value for money. If the highest amount of resources is spent at an early stage, then more efforts can be channelled to prevent, for example, diabetes, and the overall costs will be reduced.

Many of today’s most common diseases are caused by poor lifestyles–smoking, harmful use of alcohol, and being overweight and unfit. Several OECD countries have had great success in reducing the number of people smoking–though more still needs to be done. From this success, there is a challenge to find ways to tackle obesity and harmful use of alcohol.

The Norwegian government is about to implement a health reform which emphasises prevention and early intervention. Primary healthcare is a key component of our health systems. A major challenge is the level of co-ordination between the specialist and primary healthcare. Too many patients end up being hospitalised because they do not get the appropriate treatment at local level. This is expensive and does not benefit the patients. We also know that the most vulnerable groups often do not receive the services they are entitled to.

We must not allow the aftermath of the financial turmoil to contribute to social inequalities in health. Instead we must use this opportunity to reform and improve our healthcare systems. Prevention, strong primary care and increased co-ordination are keys to meet changing demographics and new disease patterns.


The Norwegian health ministry at http://hod.dep.no

See also www.oecd.org/health/ministerial


©OECD Observer No 281, October 2010




Economic data

E-Newsletter

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

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • 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.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • 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.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • 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 www.oecd.org/careers .

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 2017