I’ve become a big fan of reading the NYTimes on my fancy-schmancy new Kindle (which also become obsolete this week after they announced the Kindle DX out this summer). The op-ed section of Sunday’s NYTimes was basically a whole section on global health.

Nick Kristof’s piece was on pneumonia, which is the largest killer of children but also a disease area that is largely neglected.

Amy Grossman had a piece on how the use of misoprostol, a generic ulcer medication, could cheaply and effectively address hemorrhage, the major contributor to maternal mortality, in low income settings.

Esther Duflo was next with an letter arguing that providing more education to girls would be the most effective strategy to reduce maternal mortality.

Lewis Wall followed immediately with a letter suggesting that there needs to be more extensive use of partoraph, another low tech tool, that has been shown to be effective at reducing maternal morbidity and mortality by being able to better inform who needs more specialized care and who does not.

Then there was a story on the need to include maternal counseling into into nutrition programs. And then there were a few other articles related to Swine Flu, which I won’t even get into….and all of this before I was finished my cup of coffee on Sunday morning.

Then I received an email this morning about a new report out this morning called “Fatal Neglect” how health systems are failing to address diarrhoea, the second biggest killer of children. The report is by WaterAid and it looks great and I plan to read it as soon as my dissertation has been safely deposited into the Harvard Depository later this week.

I have to admit, the number of advocacy pieces all claiming to represent the disease area that is the most neglected made me really wonder about our current system of addressing global health issues. It is easier to raise money for disease specific causes but will this strategy ever allow us to strengthen health systems? I am not so sure, and even wrote about this recently in a new Canadian public policy forum. There must be a better way.

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3 Responses to “Fatal neglect and the proliferation of advocacy groups”

  1. April says:

    i agree – there must be a better way. the logic of: my disease kills the most people – it deserves the most aid dollars is clearly compelling, but those who make aid (or philanthropic) decisions have to be a bit more sophisticated. I think one promising approach is the “copenhagen consensus” model – where issue advocates compete for a limited amount of money by presenting the best evidence on how a dollar spent on that issue can be translated into a predictable gain. And the individuals who decide are “outsiders” – so less prone to fund noisy, influential advocates to placate them. This method can help shift money to issues where we have proven strategies to get interventions delivered…and over time could make the program/ issue advocates a bit more focused on improving the effectiveness of their programs…lest they lose funding to a program that devises better strategies to achieve their goals.

  2. Karen Grepin says:

    April,

    Thanks for the comments. I would love to learn more about the Copenhagen Consensus, do you have experience in places where it is being implemented?

    Karen

  3. Michael Keizer says:

    The Copenhagen Consensus model has been used only once, in the synonymous project. It has definitely not gone by uncristicised, see e.g. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2004/oct/23/environment.science

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