WHO has published the Global Health Expenditure Atlas for 2011, and it is an eye-opener. You should download the PDF and plan to spend a little time exploring it, especially the data for your own country and region.
My own experience in running this blog is that an awful lot of stories deal with awfully poor countries. The WHO report tends to confirm that impression. Here are a few numbers from the report's global overview:
Total global health spending: $6.5 trillion (all figures in US dollars)
Total global health spending per person per year: $948
Country with highest health spending per person: US ($8,362)
Country with lowest health spending per person: Eritrea ($12)
Country with highest out-of-pocket household spending on health: Switzerland ($2,412)
Country with lowest out-of-pocket household spending on health: Kiribati ($0.20)
Average per-person health spending in OECD countries: $4,380
Percentage of world population living in OECD countries: 18%
Percentage of world total financial resources devoted to health currently spent in OECD countries: 84%
WHO estimate of minimum spending per person per year to provide basic services: $44
Number of WHO member states spending less than $50 per person (including external donations): 34
Number of WHO member states where health spending is less than $20 per year: 7
Percentage of funds spent on health in WHO Africa region provided by donors: 11%
Most of the report's country statistics are from 2009, and they show some striking disparities. In the Americas, for example, the top three countries for health spending are the US ($7,960), Canada ($4,519) and the Bahamas ($1,741). After that, everyone else is in three or even two digits. Examples:
Chile ($802), Cuba ($672), Mexico ($525), Dominican Republic ($279), Bolivia ($90), Haiti ($40).
The Southeast Asian region also has some surprises: India is scarcely better than Haiti, at $44. Bangladesh spends only $21, and Myanmar just $14. (North Korea is a blank.)
The Western Pacific region ranges from Australia ($3,945) and Japan ($3,754) and New Zealand ($2,702) to China ($191), Papua New Guinea ($44), Cambodia ($41), and Laos ($39).
Some oil-rich Middle Eastern countries spend surprisingly little: Qatar ($1,612), Kuwait ($1,579), and Saudi Arabia ($608). Other countries in the region spend appallingly little: Pakistan can build nuclear weapons, but spends only $20 on health. Afghanistan is well ahead at $34. And Syria, well before the current civil war, was spending only $95 a year on each citizen's health.
In 2009 Europe had the world's top health spender, Luxembourg ($8,262). You don't go into just three digits until you look at the fringe nations like Estonia ($967) and Belarus ($311). In Central Asia, Tajikistan is at the bottom with $44.
Africa is a continental disaster. Enormous Nigeria spends only $67, Ghana fights cholera with $54, and Uganda battles Ebola and nodding syndrome on $44. The Democratic Republic of Congo, with continuing civil war, cholera, and another strain of Ebola, spends $17 per person. Zimbabwe, like North Korea, doesn't provide data.
We seem to be facing a chicken-and-egg problem: Until these poor countries gain some wealth, they will continue to endure (and export) endless disease. And until their populations are healthy, wealth will be very hard to acquire. Meanwhile, climate change and political unrest will make public health and wealth even harder to achieve.