WHO launches a series of papers on Financing Common Goods for Health
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Common goods for health


    Common goods for health are population-based functions or interventions that require collective financing, either from governments or donors based on the following conditions:

    • Contribute to health and economic progress;
    • There is a clear economic rationale for interventions based on market failures, with focus on (i) Public Goods (Non-Rival, Non-Exclusionary) or (ii) large social externalities.

    These common goods for health are fundamental to protecting and promoting health and well-being. Due to the broad-based benefits of these goods, related externalities, and often multisectoral nature, targeted action and investments are necessary by both governments and the global community.

    Common goods for health generally fall into five categories:

    • Policy and Coordination (ex. disease control policies and strategies)
    • Taxes and Subsidies (ex. taxes on products with impact on health to create market signals leading to behaviour change)
    • Regulations and Legislation (ex. environmental regulations and guidelines)
    • Information, analysis & communication* (ex. surveillance systems)
    • Population Services* (ex. medical and solid waste management)

    *Some may have private goods characteristics and related private financing in certain circumstances. 


    The common goods for health functions and interventions have been grouped into five categories explained below to provide greater clarity for formulating budgets, plans and implementation arrangements.

    Planning and coordination

    • The formation of national policies, institutional capacities and coordination mechanism across sectors and levels of government. These must be inclusive of all groups and will need to be monitored and formally linked with national budgetary processes.

    Regulation and legislation

    • Refers to use of a government’s coercive power to impose constraints on organizations and individuals. It includes the full range of legal instruments (such as laws, decrees, orders, codes, administrative rules and guidelines).

    Taxes and subsidies

    • Financial instruments that influence individual and market behaviour, which can have a considerable impact on population health.

    Information collection, analysis and communication

    • Involves the collection and analyses of information, and the monitoring of population-level change through a comprehensive and centrally-coordinated information system.

    Population services

    • Services that impact all of society and are fundamental to public health (such as water and sanitation, waste management, vector control and emergency response operations), but which markets either do not provide or under-provide.




    Key policy messages

    Common goods for health are essential to building national and global health security and for making progress towards universal health coverage, including preventing and mitigating epidemic and environmental threats to societies. Well-functioning health systems rely on strong governance, clear regulations and standards, population-based services and coordinated policies, all of which are common goods for health. Common goods for heath provide the economic rationale for why it is necessary for governments to invest in International Health Regulation 2005 capacities for health security and critical functions to ensure progress towards universal health coverage.

    The common goods for health agenda must be integrated into annual and multiyear budget dialogues as well as health financing and national budget reform dialogues. Financing these cross-cutting functions requires pooled resources, as well as coordination across relevant sectors. Medium-term expenditure frameworks can aid in this coordination and can make sure common goods for health are prioritized over time and across levels of government, even in the face of fiscal and political constraints. Some countries may adjust their public financial management to expand and reprioritize budgetary space to allow funds to flow to these functions.