Development Perspectives

In addition to the moral obligation of governments and societies to safeguard the health of children, broadly recognised in treaties and law, there are sound economic reasons for tackling child TB. Properly supervised development is critical to securing improved public health in the long-term, and even marginal decreases in child mortality can have substantial positive impacts on long-term economic growth.

Development is broadly correlated with lower child mortality, and new research shows that decreasing child mortality actively contributes to economic growth.70 Regional studies have addressed the correlation between reduced child mortality and economic growth in Africa and Asia.71,72 Meanwhile, TB’s economic toll is well established with WHO tallying US$12 billion per year of lost economic productivity, as well as US$9.2 billion in treatment and control costs, around the world. Another study calculates that TB costs African countries an average of three percent of their GDP growth annually73 and economists estimate that, globally, a 10 percent increase in TB incidence is correlated with a 0.2-0.4 percent decrease in economic growth.74

Even marginal decreases in child mortality can have substantial positive impacts on long-term economic growth.

The cost of TB treatment is affordable and, with widely available generic TB drugs, is roughly the same as other life-threatening diseases — and far less than the growing burden of chronic disease among adult populations. In 2014 the average cost of treating ordinary (non-MDR) TB in low-income countries was US$258 per patient.75,76 Comparably, treatment for HIV costs an average of US$136.8 per patient annually across low-income countries, increasing up to $208 in five high-burden African countries and at least US$257 in Uganda.77,78,79 Life-saving treatment for an episode of severe malaria costs an average of US$150 in East Asia.80 By contrast, in-patient hospitalisation for cardiovascular disease, soaring among adult populations, costs a minimum per hospitalisation of US$455 and an average of US$8,800 worldwide.81 Given the impact that universal access to TB treatment would have on society, the World Bank and the Copenhagen Consensus have pointed to TB elimination as a best buy in global public health and international development, respectively.82,83