Guest post By Ted Caplow, director of Whole New World Foundation
My son spent the first weeks of his life in intensive care, attended by a team of neonatologists. My wife and I could do little more than watch, until one day the doctors asked our permission to proceed with an elective procedure. My immediate impulse was to track down more information about the risks involved so I could maximize my son’s chance of survival.
In developed countries, immersed in the information age, we are accustomed to supporting our decisions with data. Unfortunately, in the rest of the world, the struggle to save children’s lives takes place without the benefit of adequate information. Despite great reductions in child mortality over the past 30 years, more than 18,000 children under the age of five still die every day.
International authorities classify these deaths as “preventable,” meaning that modern medical knowledge and technology could save these children, but it fails to reach them. More support for studying the true impact of life-saving interventions could help bridge this gap.
A 2014 Gates Foundation report estimates that over the past three decades the international community has donated $5,000 in health care interventions for each child’s life that was saved in the developing world. At that rate, it will take $33 billion in additional global spending to save the 6.6 million lives under five that are still lost each year. This large sum will be difficult to raise, so directing funding to the most cost-effective interventions is a priority.
Frustratingly, despite the enormous resources dedicated to combating child mortality, there remains a widespread lack of data on the efficacy of individual intervention programs. There are several reasons for this situation.