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International financial organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) play a central role in shaping the developmental trajectories of fiscally distressed countries through their conditional lending schemes, known as 'structural adjustment programmes'. These programmes entail wide-ranging domestic policy reforms that influence local health and welfare systems. Using novel panel data from 187 countries between 1990 and 2017 and an instrumental variable technique, we find that IMF programmes lead to over 70 excess deaths from respiratory diseases and tuberculosis per 100,000 population and that IMF-mandated privatisation reforms lead to over 90 excess deaths per 100,000 population. Thus structural adjustment programmes, as currently designed and implemented, are harmful to population health and increase global infectious disease burdens.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Communicable Diseases, Financial Management, Humans, Social Welfare