An evaluation of the International Monetary Fund's claims about public health

D Stuckler, S Basurra, Anna Gilmore, R Batniji, G Ooms, A A Marphatia, R Hammonds, M McKee

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The International Monetary Fund's recent claims concerning its impact on public health are evaluated against available data. First, the IMF claims that health spending either does not change or increases with IMF-supported programs, but there is substantial evidence to the contrary. Second, the IMF claims to have relaxed strict spending requirements in response to the 2008-9 financial crisis, but there is no evidence supporting this claim, and some limited evidence from the Center for Economic Policy Research contradicting it. Third, the IMF states that wage ceilings on public health are no longer part of its explicit conditionalities to poor countries, as governments can choose how to achieve public spending targets; but in practice, ministers are left with few viable alternatives than to reduce health budgets to achieve specific IMF-mandated targets, so the result effectively preserves former policy. Fourth, the IMF's claim that it has increased aid to poor countries also seems to be contradicted by its policies of diverting aid to reserves, as well as evidence that a very small fraction of the Fund's new lending in response to the financial crisis has reached poor countries. Finally, the IMF's claim that it follows public health standards in tobacco control contrasts with its existing policies, which fail to follow the guidelines recommended by the World Bank and World Health Organization. The authors recommend that the IMF (1) become more transparent in its policies, practices, and data to allow improved independent evaluations of its impact on public health (including Health Impact Assessment) and (2) review considerable public health evidence indicating a negative association between its current policies and public health outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-332
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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