Growing evidence suggests that health aid can serve humanitarian and diplomatic ends. This study utilised the Fragile States Index (FSI) for the 47 nations of the World Health Organizations' Africa region for the years 2005-2014 and data on health and non-health development aid spending from the United States (US) for those same years. Absolute amounts of health and non-health aid flows from the US were used as predictors of state fragility. We used time-lagged, fixed-effects multivariable regression modelling with change in FSI as the outcome of interest. The highest quartile of US health aid per capita spending (≥$4.00 per capita) was associated with a large and immediate decline in level of state fragility (b = -7.57; 95% CI, -14.6 to -0.51, P = 0.04). A dose-response effect was observed in the primary analysis, with increasing levels of spending associated with greater declines in fragility. Health per-capita expenditures were correlated with improved fragility scores across all lagged intervals and spending quartiles. The association of US health aid with immediate improvements in metrics of state stability across sub-Saharan Africa is a novel finding. This effect is possibly explained by our observations that relative to non-health aid, US health expenditures were larger and more targeted.
Keywords: Global health; aid effectiveness; diplomacy; health aid; international health policy; politics.