A very important sentence

10 Jul

“A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows that fulfilling unmet contraception demand by women in developing countries could reduce global maternal mortality by nearly a third, a potentially great improvement for one of the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

That is from this article in the New York Times.

So, I guess its time to start getting those women greater access to contraception…right?

It’s worthing noting that the article is about more than the stunning (~1/3) maternal mortality figure. It highlights the changing priorities of aid and development concerns in recent years, specifically concerning health care:

(the focus on family planning) has faded from the international agenda in recent years, overshadowed by efforts to combat AIDS and other infectious diseases, as well as by ideological battles.

The proportion of international population assistance funds that went to family planning fell to just 6 percent in 2008, down from 55 percent in 1995, while spending on H.I.V./AIDS represented 74 percent of the total in 2008, up from just 9 percent in 1995.

The questions of aid priorities is fundamental to discussion of aid solutions. There is no doubt that spending on HIV/AIDS spending is crucial. However, when the amount of aid dollars is limited, it’s necessary to consider the proportional distribution relative to the weight of each of problem (NB – I have no idea what the relative weights of health priorities in developing countries are. I’m definitely not suggesting that money spent on HIV/AIDS should go to contraception).

A similar question of prioritization has arisen concerning cancer spending the the U.S. where breast cancer is by far the greatest fundraiser and research spending, while it ranks third in deaths, and second in new cases (see cancer spending table from this NYT article after the break).

Cancer (Deaths) N.C.I. Funding per Death
Lung (162,460) $1,630
Colon (55,170) $4,566
Breast (41,430) $13,452
Pancreas (32,300 ) $2,297
Prostate (27,350) $11,298
Cancer (New cases) N.C.I. Funding per New Case
Prostate (234,460) $1,318
Breast (214,640) $2,596
Lung (174,470) $1,518
Colon (106,680) $2,361
Pancreas (33,730) $2,200

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