Most Asia/Pacific countries need to improve affordable access to healthcare, says OECD


27/11/2014 - Most countries in the Asia/Pacific region need to step up their efforts to give more people access to affordable, quality health care. Too many people, especially women, cannot get the medical treatment they need due to high costs, difficulties in getting permission to see a doctor or a lack of health care providers in rural areas, according to a new OECD report.


Despite these issues, Health at a Glance Asia/Pacific 2014 reveals that life expectancy at birth across 22 Asian countries reached 73.4 years on average in 2012, a gain of about seven years since 1990. In comparison, OECD countries gained 5.3 years during the same period.


But a large regional divide persists: the country with the longest life expectancy is Hong Kong, China with 83.3 years for both men and women. Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Macau, China also exceeded 80 years for total life expectancy.


In contrast, eleven countries in the Asia/Pacific region had total life expectancies of less than 70 years, and in Papua New Guinea and Myanmar, a child born in 2012 can expect to live an average of less than or equal to 65 years of life.


The report also reveals the high prevalence of diabetes in Asia/Pacific, which accounted for over 60% of the 5.1 million deaths worldwide caused by the disease in 2013. About 215 million people live with diabetes in the region and half of them are undiagnosed and unaware of developing long-term complications.


Diabetes among adults aged 20-79 years, prevalence estimates, 2035

diabetes Asia small



Other findings of Health at a Glance Asia/Pacific 2014 include:


Health status

  • Maternal mortality averages around six deaths per 100 000 live births in OECD countries, while in Asian countries it is almost 15 times greater. Between 1990 and 2013, the average maternal mortality rate across Asian countries has been cut by 48%.
  • Cardiovascular diseases cause around one third of all deaths, while tuberculosis is the leading cause of death from an infectious disease in the Asia/Pacific region. In 2012, over 6.3% of the 8.6 million people in the world suffering from tuberculosis lived in the region.
  • The share of the population aged over 65 years in Asia is expected to nearly quadruple in the next four decades to reach 26% in 2050, surpassing the OECD.


Health care resources

  • The supply of doctors and nurses in the region, at around 1.2 and 2.8 per 1 000 population respectively, is well below the OECD average of 3.2 and 8.7.
  • The number of hospital beds per capita is 3.3 per 1 000 population on average across Asia, lower than the OECD average of 4.8, but varies considerably. It is highest in Japan with over 13 beds per 1 000 population, and lowest in the Philippines with 0.5 per 1 000 population.


Healthcare spending

  • Asian economies spend just over USD 730 per person per year on health, against USD 3 510 in OECD countries. This amounts to over 4.6% of gross domestic product, on average, in the Asian region, compared to over 9.3% in OECD countries.
  • The share of public spending in total health spending is much lower in Asia compared to OECD countries: 48.1% vs 72.7% respectively.
  • The growth rate in per capita health spending in real terms was 5.6% per year in Asia, on average between 2000 and 2012, higher than the 4.3% observed for gross domestic product. The growth rate for China and Mongolia was even more rapid – almost twice the average rate for the region.


Health at a Glance Asia/Pacific 2014, a joint publication with the World Health Organisation, presents key indicators on health status, determinants of health, health care resources and utilisation, health expenditure and financing, and quality of care for 27 Asia/Pacific countries and economies. This report offers a comprehensive and user-friendly framework to help policy makers design and implement better policies to support countries’ progress towards universal health coverage – and improve the health of their populations.


More information and country notes are available at


For further information, contact:


Luca Lorenzoni of the OECD Health Division (+33 1 45 24 76 21 or [email protected])

Kenichiro Taneda of the Health Services Development (HSD) division of the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific (+63 2 5289883 or [email protected])

Sunil Senanayake of the Health Systems Management and Patient Safety division of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Regional Office for South-East Asia (+91 11 2330 9330 or [email protected])


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