Healthy Life Expectancy Index reveals a regional paradox - ESCWA

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Healthy Life Expectancy Index reveals a regional paradox

ESCWA Publication: E/ESCWA/CL6.GCP/2021/TP.2


Publication Type: Information material

Cluster: Governance and Conflict Prevention

Focus Area: Inclusive development

Initiatives: Rethinking human development

Keywords: Health, Human development

Healthy Life Expectancy Index reveals a regional paradox

July 2021

This background paper re-examines the human development achievements in the health dimension of the human development index by using the healthy life expectancy indicator.   This proposal has a strong conceptual reasoning that is grounded in the capability approach. This paper also introduces the health sector capacity index made up of two indicators measuring the population share of doctors and of hospital beds.

The results are as expected with regards to the relation between health sector capacity and health outcomes as countries with higher healthy life expectancy generally scored higher on the health sector capacity index. However, there are some clear exceptions. Some countries, mostly from the former Soviet Union, recorded far higher capacities than their health outcomes possibly indicating poor lifestyle health habits and/or low efficiency of health sector services. Other countries, including Morocco, show a lower health sector capacity than expected given their healthy life expectancy index outcomes, which may be the result of healthy life practices and/or high health sector efficiency.

The results also reveal that the introduction of the healthy life expectancy index did not affect scores and rankings for most countries compared to the life expectancy index.  This is expected given the very high correlation between the two indices. However, for many Arab countries, the score and rank difference between both indices are striking given that they show eight out of the ten highest global rank losses.

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