Which Single Intervention Would Do the Most to Improve the Health of Those Living on Less Than $1 Per Day?

Since I was gone to two meetings and nobody else can walk the dog as regularly as I can, the dog spent the week at Grandma’s in Raleigh. Today I went to pick her up (the dog, that is) which placed me in the car at precisely the time of NPR’s Talk of the Nation Science Friday (OK, I intentionally timed it that way). And lo and behold, there was Gavin Yamey on the radio! Hey, I thought, I know this guy! We had lunch together and we exchange at least a dozen e-mails every week.
Gavin is editor at PLoS Medicine and, as part of the Global Theme Issue on Poverty and Human Development, he interviewed 30 experts on poverty (from economists like Jeffrey Sacks, through biomedical researchers focusing on the diseases of the poor, via medical staff working in the trenches, to the greatest experts on the topic – the poor themselves) and asked them the same question (the one in the title of this post). The answers are collected here.
You can hear the NPR interview here. Twice you can hear a faint jingle in the background. Apparently, a friend of his tried to text Gavin to tell him he was on Science Friday – as if Gavin was not acutely aware of the fact at the time! Talk of the Nation is a call-in show, thus it goes live. It is not pre-recorded. Please do not call your friends when they are On Air!
Gavin also gave a similar interview for Voice of America (find transcript through that link). I think he did marvelously.
The main points of the survey:
1) Doing something about poverty is not expensive or high-tech.
2) No single intervention is sufficient – a number of things have to happen simultaneously.
3) The rich countries reneged on their promise from the past to devote a certain percentage of their GDP to the eradication of poverty.
4) Getting the rich countries to do what they promised would go a long way.
One of the things Ira Flatow tried to do during the interview was to paint the picture as “haves versus have-nots”. I think Gavin did a nice job of deflecting this notion. The idea that the word “versus” should be between the words “haves” and “have-nots” is outdated and dangerous. The thinking that this is a zero-sum game in which the two “sides” compete, and if one side “wins” the other one “loses” is devious and wrong. The two groups are interconnected and interdependent. Either both win or both lose, and it is the haves who have the power to decide which outcome they prefer.

2 responses to “Which Single Intervention Would Do the Most to Improve the Health of Those Living on Less Than $1 Per Day?

  1. The health of the desperately poor would best be served by feeding them ground-up billionaires.
    Seriously.

  2. Which Single Intervention Would Do the Most to Improve the Health of Those Living on Less Than $1 Per Day?
    Most of the answers were in the line of
    Poor man: “Doctor Doctor, I’m ill because of dire poverty”
    Doctor: “Ah… For a hundred thousand dollars we can convene an international committee to study and resolve this issue.”
    Poor man: “Ah… Sorry to bother you Doctor Sir, but could you just give me an extra 50c a day. It will go a lot further and nearly double my incoming and cost less. In short Doctor, please go away and do nothing. I really really can’t afford you.”