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International health aid not misused, study says

A recent study by Stanford researchers could reopen the debate on whether or not international assistance for health programs should be given to government agencies.

In a report published Tuesday in Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, affiliates at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) for International Studies — Rajaie Batniji and Eran Bendavid — attempt to refute an earlier study which concluded that funds given to national governments for the purpose of health programs are often wasted or misused.

Researchers at the University of Washington conducted the first study in 2010, which was then published in the medical journal Lancet. Batniji, a resident physician at the Stanford Medical Center, told the Stanford Report that the Lancet article is cited to this day as a reason against giving international health aid to foreign governments.

Data for the 2010 study came from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The new study, however, found that when outlying data — such as discrepancies between the WHO and IMF estimates — were excluded from the analysis, there was not significant support that governments misdirect foreign aid.

The United States is currently scheduled to reduce its budget for international health aid next year by $10 billion, or 4 percent.

FSI’s Global Underdevelopment Action Fund provided financial support for the study.

– Kurt Chirbas