The Global Health Impact Index: A Human Development Index for Health

By Nicole Hassoun (special guest contributor to CDHR)

LogoThe world is not on track to meet the sixth Millennium Development Goal to combat malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis (TB) — some of the world’s worst diseases. Millions of people with these diseases cannot access the essential medicines they need. A new Global Health Impact index can help us address this problem. It evaluates the impact of key drugs on malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS in every country in the world and provides something akin to a Human Development Index for health (

On the Global Health Impact index, drugs are having the second greatest impact in India primarily because there is a great deal of successfully treated TB in India and also some successfully treated HIV/AIDS. In Nigeria, drugs for malaria are making a larger difference and, in South Africa, we are having more success in alleviating the burden of HIV/AIDS but having a much smaller impact on TB and malaria.

The index estimates drugs’ impact in each country based on assessments of the need for the drug (in disability adjusted life years lost to the disease states it treats), access to the drug (treatment coverage), and drug efficacy estimates (from, e.g., clinical trial data) in that country. You can learn more about the index by checking out our methodology and resources.

Because the index is focused on evaluating the global health impacts of key malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS medicines available in each country in a rigorous way, and not on countries’ efforts or policies, countries’ scores depend on many other factors besides the nature of country-level health systems. They depend, for instance, on international aid efforts, and what other drugs are already around. That makes the Global Health Impact index a promising basis for incentivizing many organizations (governmental and non-governmental) to address the access to medicines problem and increase our collective global health impact. One can also see the overall impact we are having on the diseases and drug impact scores aggregated by originator-company.

Moreover, it is possible to partner with the Global Health Impact organization — a collaboration of scholars from universities and civil society organizations from around the world – to look at the determinants and consequences of global health impact. Researchers might consider, for instance, how countries’ levels of development affect, or are affected by, health impact.

Nicole H graph
Disease Burden (Disability Adjusted Life Years) Averted with Key Medicines in Each Country

The Global Health Impact index has the potential to foster great improvements to global health. It should be of interest to policy makers, researchers, companies, investors, and others interested in promoting global health. Although data alone will not solve any of the health problems people face, it can help many people secure essential medicines that save millions of lives every year.

For news about the project, see:

Nicole HassounNicole Hassoun heads the Global Health Impact project intended to extend access to medicines to the global poor and is Associate Professor of philosophy at Binghamton University. From 2006-2012 she was an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, affiliated with Carnegie Mellon’s Program on International Relations and the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Bioethics and Health Law. In 2009-2010, she held a postdoctoral position at Stanford University and visited at the United Nation’s World Institute for Development Economics Research. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Center for Poverty Research in Austria and the Center for Advanced Studies in Frankfurt. Her book Globalization and Global Justice: Shrinking Distance, Expanding Obligations was recently published with Cambridge University Press.