Foreign health aid forms a substantial portion of health spending in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). It can be either vertical (funds earmarked for specific diseases) or horizontal (funds used for broad health sector strengthening). Historically, most health aid has been disbursed vertically toward key infectious diseases, with minimal allocations to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). High NCD burden in LMICs underscores a need for increased assistance toward NCD objectives, but evidence on the outcomes of health aid for NCDs is sparse. We obtained annual data on cause-specific deaths and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for four leading NCDs across 116 countries, 2000-2016, and evaluated the relationship between these indicators and vertical and horizontal health aid using country fixed-effects models with 1-to-5-year lagged effects. After adjusting for fixed and time-variant country heterogeneity, vertical assistance for NCDs was significantly associated with subsequent reductions in NCD morbidity and mortality, particularly for persons under age 70 and for cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases. An additional dollar in per-capita NCD vertical assistance corresponded to reductions in the average annual NCD burden of 7,459 DALYs/281 deaths after one year, 7,728 DALYs/319 deaths after two years, and 8,957 DALYs/346 deaths after three years. The findings suggest that vertical assistance for NCD programs may be an appropriate mechanism for addressing short-term NCD needs in LMICs, where it may help to fill health sector gaps in NCD care, but longer-term evaluation is needed for assessing the role of horizontal assistance.
Noncommunicable disease outcomes and the effects of vertical and horizontal health aid