Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two Health Stories

For a relative pittance, the Carter Center has come close to eradicating guinea worm.  By improving education, digging wells and providing treatment, they have managed to dramatically reduce a truly horrific parasitic infection.

Meanwhile, there is a new drug to combat HIV.  It is incredibly expensive - up to $14,000 a year - and has to be taken every day.  It can help at-risk people avoid infection, but again it has to be taken every day.  It has already started to create resistant strains, despite being on the market for only two years.  The people who probably need it most - sex workers and the population of sub-Saharan Africa - can't afford it.

Roughly speaking, you're looking at two ways of treating illness.  One is focused on public health and prevention.  The other is "there's a pill for that (if you have insurance)."

Obviously, drugs have made tremendous improvements in people's lives.  But the way in which we treat illnesses could be made more comprehensive.  It will be interesting - for instance - to see a longitudinal study of preventable deaths from cigarette smoking and see if high taxes have an effect.  It's only been about 15 years since the tobacco industry finally cried uncle about their product.  Has there been an effect?

Or is there now a pill for that, too?

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