In April 2017, the Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation at the University of Washington released its seminal annual report on development funding for health in low and middle income countries.
The report summarizes all bilateral, multilateral, corporate and private philanthropic investment into health throughout the prior calendar year. It also breaks out funding by health focus areas such as maternal health, HIV/AIDS or malaria.
In 2016, there was a total of $37.4 billion of development funding invested into health in low and middle income countries. The focus areas of HIV/AIDS, maternal health and child health consumed more than 50% of the total funding, with other key funding streams including malaria, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases and health system strengthening receiving smaller but still significant portions of funds. Mental illnesses collectively received 0.3% of total funding in 2016, equivalent to $128 million. Depression specifically, received a smaller subset of that, though the exact figure for depression alone was not established in this report.
Despite depression being the leading cause of disability worldwide (quantified by the measure: disability adjusted life years [DALYs]), it receives one of the smallest portions of funding by health focus area. By way of like-for-like comparison, HIV/AIDS receives about $144 per DALY while mental illness receives $0.85 per DALY.
Funding mental illness and StrongMinds’ depression intervention remains a key challenge as we execute our 3-Year Plan to treat 100,000 women. Central to that is advocating for mental health as a critically underfunded area of development funding in health, and securing new partners through a diverse funding pipeline, comprising foundations, bilateral grants, multilateral grants and private philanthropic partners.4