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Health and education core in improving economy

Barry Silah @obel_barry

Nations that fail to invest in health and education are at risk of stagnating their economies leading to lower per capita gross domestic product (GDP), according to a study.

The study which puts in perspective the relationship between education, health and human capital ranked Kenya’s human capital at 139 out of 195 countries in 2016 compared to position 137 in 1990.

The study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an important contribution to the measurement of human capital across countries and over time and is considered an important determinant of economic growth.

Titled Measuring human capital: A systematic analysis of 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016, the study was first published in the international medical journal The Lancet on September 24, this year.

It is based on a systematic analysis of an extensive array of data from numerous sources, including government agencies, schools, and healthcare systems.

The study places Kenya ahead of Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia, adding that Kenya has shown improvement in health since 1990.

Kenyans currently live for an average of 38 years, while in 1990, Kenyans lived an average of 35 years. But Kenya has not improved as quickly as other nations, and it is ranke 153 in the world in terms of years workers can expect to live.

“Our findings show the association – between investments in education and health and improved human capital and GDP – that policymakers ignore at their own peril,” said Dr Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

“As the world economy grows increasingly dependent on digital technology, from agriculture to manufacturing to the service industry, human capital grows increasingly important for stimulating local and national economies.”

The greatest increase in human capital among sub-Saharan African countries was in Equatorial Guinea.

The study’s measure of functional health – which calculates the work impact of ailments like stunting, hearing and vision loss, or infectious diseases like malaria or tuberculosis – ranked Kenya at number 146 in the world. Kenya scored better than Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Sudan, and just below South Africa.

Kenyan workers receive more education than they did in 1990. In 2016, Kenyans spent about 11 years out of a possible 18 years measured in the study.

Kenya rose 16 places since 1990 in terms of years spent in school; the country ranks number 111 in the world. But quality of education in Kenya is lagging.

While Kenya has shown improvement since 1990 and now outranks countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Ethiopia in terms of education quality, it is still only number 157 in the world.

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