Recognizing the importance of chronic disease in driving healthcare expenditure in Tanzania: Analysis of panel data from 1991 to 2010

Christopher J. Counts, Jolene Skordis-Worrall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the growing chronic disease burden in low- and middle-income countries, there are significant gaps in our understanding of the financial impact of these illnesses on households. As countries make progress towards universal health coverage, specific information is needed about how chronic disease care drives health expenditure over time, and how this spending differs from spending on acute disease care. Methods: A 19-year panel dataset was constructed using data from the Kagera Health and Development Surveys. Health expenditure was modelled using multilevel regression for three different sub-populations of households: (1) all households that spent on healthcare, (2) households affected by chronic disease and (3) households affected by acute disease. Explanatory variables were identified from a review of the health expenditure literature, and all variables were analysed descriptively. Findings: Households affected by chronic disease spent 22% more on healthcare than unaffected households. Catastrophic expenditure and zero expenditure are both common in chronic disease-affected households. Expenditure predictors were different between households affected by chronic disease and those unaffected. Expenditure over time is highly heterogeneous and household-dependent. Conclusions: The financial burden of healthcare is greater for households affected by chronic disease than those unaffected. Households appear unable to sustain high levels of expenditure over time, likely resulting in both irregular chronic disease treatment and impoverishment. The Tanzanian government's current efforts to develop a National Health Financing Strategy present an important opportunity to prioritize policies that promote the long-term financial protection of households by preventing the catastrophic consequences of chronic disease care payments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-443
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Catastrophic expenditure
  • NCDs
  • Tanzania
  • chronic
  • financial protection
  • health economics
  • health financing
  • health systems


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