Monday, January 21, 2013

Disease 'halves people's incomes' in tropical countries

LuĂ­s Amorim in SciDev.net: Tropical countries' per capita incomes could more than double if they managed to reduce their health burden from vector-borne and parasitic diseases (VBPDs) to that seen in temperate countries, a study has found.

The study says that poor economic performance is caused partly by high disease burden, which is in turn affected by biodiversity. Although VBPDs remain a leading cause of death and disability in poor countries, there is debate over their relative impact on global poverty patterns, the paper says.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Princeton University in the United States and from UniversitĂ© de Cergy-Pontoise in France set out to examine whether these diseases only played a historical role in delaying tropical countries' growth by limiting foreign investment and institutions' development, or whether environmental factors present in the tropics are the key element driving the VBPDs — which in turn still harming wealth production today.

If disease is still hindering development, then healthcare improvements should be made a key part of macroeconomic strategies and foreign economic aid, and not only be done for humanitarian reasons, the paper argues.

The researchers used models to estimate the relative effects of disease burden and per capita income on each other, controlling for other factors. The findings bolster the case for targeting diseases to lessen their impact on tropical countries' economic development, according to Matthew Bonds, lead author from Harvard Medical School....

Nurse Ubah Mahammed marks a child after administering de-worming medicine, Shinile Woreda, Ethiopia, Oct. 13, 2010. US Army photograph

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