Do maternal and child health promote economic development? A case study of six sub-Saharan African countries
Economic development leads to improved health for both women and children through advances in the field of medicine, reduction in mortality rates, and increase in life expectancy. Similarly, optimum maternal and child health are instrumental in human capital formation and productivity, with the potential for economic development. However, the majority of previously published research has focused on the impact of economic development on maternal and child health and rarely examines the reverse relationship (that is, the impact of child and maternal health on economic development), especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the magnitude of the impact of maternal and child health on economic development (Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita), and vice versa, using a 10- year horizon and variance decompositions, for six countries in SSA. These countries, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Botswana and South Africa were grouped according to income brackets. Analyses were all based on Vector Auto Regression models and conducted on annual time-series data from the World Development Indicator data set, 1960-2012. The proxies for child health and maternal health were infant mortality rate and life expectancy at birth for females (in years), respectively. The magnitude of the contribution of child health to GDP per capita was generally higher than vice versa across countries in all income groups: Burkina Faso (41.7% vs 11.6%), Togo (12.2% vs 27.1%), Ghana (17.3% vs 7.8%), Ivory Coast (16.4% vs 9.7%), Botswana (33.4% vs 0.6%) and South Africa (29.3% vs 2.7%). The magnitude of the contribution of maternal health to GDP per capita was higher than the impact of the reverse relationship for the lower middle-income countries of Ghana (10.6% vs 2.4%) and Ivory Coast (82.3% vs 0.1%) and the upper middle-income countries of Botswana (2.3% vs 1.5%) and South Africa (25.6% vs 0.1%). However, the magnitude of the effect of GDP per capita on maternal health was higher than the other way around only for the lower income countries of Burkina Faso (27.9% vs 1.1%) and Togo (30.0% vs 3.8%). This study adds further policy support for improving maternal and child health to achieve substantial benefits on long-term economic growth in SSA.
Key words: Maternal health, child health, economic development, sub-Saharan Africa, GDP per capita