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Thursday, June 10, 2004

How to save the world

James K. Glassman writes in TCS about the Copenhagan Consensus, a panel of economists who looked at the several of the world's problems and their possible solutions and ranked them according to a cost-benefit analysis.

A paper for the CC by Anne Mills and Sam Shillcutt, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, points out that a program to prevent HIV in Thailand achieved a ratio of benefits to costs of 15 to 1 -- "a figure," writes The Economist, "that governments could scarcely dream of achieving for typical public-investment projects in other economic sectors." Ranking second is a more unusual project -- "reducing the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia by means of food supplements," at an estimated cost of $12 billion. Third is the promotion of free trade, which "was agreed to yield exceptionally large benefits." Fourth is control of malaria, a disease that afflicts 300 million people and causes 2.7 million deaths annually. Of the top 10 priorities, seven are related to health and three of those concerned lack of safe and affordable access to water and sanitation.
This makes a lot of sense to me. More than anything else disease can sap the productivity of a population and makes any other problems they might encounter worse.


Blogger Aric said...

An interesting example of that closer to home is the hookworm infections of the U.S. South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Rockefeller Center's efforts to eradicate it (which was eventually successful).

6/10/2004 08:12:00 PM  

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