Global human burden and official development assistance in health R&D: The role of medical absorptive capacity

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We investigate country-level determinants of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in health R&D with a focus on levels and types of human suffering as well as levels and types of medical absorptive capacity. Using latest data from a range of sources and various tests on large numbers of countries in receipt of health R&D ODA, we find support for the central assertions that human burden has a direct positive impact on receipt of health R&D ODA and that medical absorptive capacity in the recipient country moderates this relationship. The relationship between human burden and health R&D ODA receipt does not hold for countries low in medical absorptive capacity. Additional analysis reveals: (1) medical absorptive capacity that involves regular patient contact has the strongest moderating effect on the burden – funding relationship, (2) receipt of health R&D ODA under low levels of medical absorptive capacity explained not by human burden but by small country bias, and (3) the importance of nurses to health R&D ODA in countries with high levels of human suffering and health R&D ODA but voids of doctors and clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104365
JournalResearch policy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

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© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Health R&D
  • Human burden
  • Medical absorptive capacity
  • Official development assistance

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