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HEALTH POLICY AND PLANNING. 1986 Mar; 1(1):37-47.This economic analysis assesses the probable costs of implementing various activities of the World Health Organization's (WHO's) global strategy of "health for all by the year 2000" and the likelihood that developing countries will be able to afford these costs, either on their own or with the assistance of developed countries. If this policy is to be transformed into concrete results, there must be a plan complete with budgetary requirements, planned activities, and expected results specified in adequate detail. The overall costs of the activities proposed by the global strategy would amount to approximately 5% of the gross national product of most developing countries, with water supplies and primary health care comprising the most expensive activities. Although there is a good match between estimated resource requirements and planned activities, the desired outcomes are often unlikely to result from the activities proposed. At present, all 25 industrial market and nonmarket industrial developed countries have already achieved the outcome goals of the global strategy; however, these countries account for only 25% of the world's population. Of the 63 middle-income countries, 54 have already achieved a gross national product per capita of over US$500, but only 22 have an infant mortality rate better than 50/1000. Very few low-income countries are close to reaching their targets for income, infant mortality, life expectancy, or literacy. On the basis of current trends, 25-33% of countries are considered unlikely to achieve the outcome goals by the year 2000. In general, it appears that expenditure targets are too low to cover the needed health services activities. Further research on the costs of health promoting activities such as immunization and primary health care should be given high priority.