Structural adjustment and health policy in Africa

Int J Health Serv. 1993;23(4):717-30. doi: 10.2190/WBQL-B4JP-K1PP-J7Y3.


World Bank/International Monetary Fund Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) have been introduced in over 40 countries of Africa. This article outlines their economic policy measures and the experience of the countries that have introduced them, in terms of nutrition, health status, and health services. The evidence indicates that SAPs have been associated with increasing food insecurity and undernutrition, rising ill-health, and decreasing access to health care in the two-thirds or more of the population of African countries that already lives below poverty levels. SAPs have also affected health policy, with loss of a proactive health policy framework, a widening gap between the affected communities and policy makers, and the replacement of the underlying principle of equity in and social responsibility for health care by a policy in which health is marketed commodity and access to health care becomes an individual responsibility. The author argues that there is a deep contradiction between SAPs and policies aimed at building the health of the population. Those in the health sector need to contribute to the development and advocacy of economic policies in which growth is based on human resource development, and to the development of a civic environment in Africa that can ensure the implementation of such policies.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Developing Countries*
  • Financing, Government / economics
  • Financing, Government / trends*
  • Forecasting
  • Health Policy / economics
  • Health Policy / trends*
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Health Services Accessibility / trends
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Medical Indigency / economics
  • Medical Indigency / trends
  • Social Conditions*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*