Interesting article in Slate on treating the world’s poor and cost-effectiveness.
Cost-effectiveness is a relatively simple economic principle – get the most bang for your buck. Though seemingly sound, in public health it is often translated into decisions about who is deserving of treatment based on their poverty or wealth. Treatments that would be given unquestionably in wealthy countries such as the United States – multi-drug resistant tuberculosis treatment is a clear example – are deemed too expensive and cost-ineffective in poor settings such as the slums of Lima, Perú.
In trying to ration the scarce funds public health programs receive, we are left playing economic games with human lives, with the poor left behind yet again.
Though the cost-effectiveness question still plagues public health, it is refreshing to see more and more organizations question that and follow the model put forth by Partners In Health (www.pih.org) – health as a human right, and therefore truly everyone’s right. It is high time that we recognize that the lives of the poor are not valuable only insofar as they are “cost-effective.”
-Verónica Bayetti Flores