Being in the UK during the Brexit referendum made me aware of the issues around healthcare funding.
“We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead. Vote Leave”
This claim that that leaving the EU will mean an extra of £30 billion for the NHS, per year, is equivalent to three months of the NHS England budget. Whether it was actually true or not (read the Telegraph for fact-checking), it was arguably the most powerful statement that galvanised the Leave sentiment.
In my hometown Hong Kong, by 2041, almost one in three will be aged 65 or above. Globally, the number of older persons — those aged 60 years or over — is expected to more than double by 2050. Population ageing inevitably means that healthcare funding will only become more pressing issue.
My work in the past three years has been focused on blended finance and impact investing. Impact investments are investments made into companies, organisations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return (definition by GIIN). My attraction to this space is that it is a no-brainer – there are so many challenges confronting humanity and that we need to be deploying capital differently. I believe that impact investing is the key to funding universal access to healthcare.
David Cameron, Former Prime Minister of the UK, discussed at the launch of The Fore yesterday, that civil society organisations are always first to come up with solutions that address societal challenges. In politics, he discussed that there is often a binary view of life, and that there is not enough attention on something in between public and private. His conceptualisation of Big Society Capital, the world’s first social investment bank, aims to unlock private capital towards tackling social challenges – healthcare being one of the most pressing issues.
On a global level, the role of impact investing in solving global development challenges is increasingly discussed. Earlier this year, I attended the UNDP Impact Investment for Development conference in Armenia, the very first global summit on impact investment for development hosted by a UN agency. The awareness is there – and actions are slowly following.
From my experience at TSIC working with social entrepreneurs to raise investment, as well as convening impact investors, I see the critical role of impact measurement in unlocking capital. This is also in line with a broader shift in development, from outputs (a focus on process and on what one needs to do) to outcomes (a focus on benefits and on what one needs to achieve), as noted by the World Bank.. Validated scales like Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales, and the work of Public Health England in open data, allow social entrepreneurs to demonstrate their impact.
The world has recently just saw the world’s first Development Impact Bond (DIB) in education. According to Centre for Global Development, DIBs provide upfront funding for development programs by private investors, who are remunerated by donors or host-country governments—and earn a return—if evidence shows that programs achieve pre-agreed outcomes. It is just a matter of time when we see the first DIB in health. Then, the world’s governments will be able to start implementing impact investing models in funding universal access to healthcare.