Okay, this is a bit convoluted but see if you can follow.
The gist here is about how best to fund improvements in global health.
In 2010, Seattle researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published an analysis of global health spending and found a significant amount of ‘displacement’ – meaning foreign donations to fight HIV, malaria, TB or other scourges were allowing governments in poor countries to cut their own spending on health.
This is a problem because one of the primary goals in global health is to support local investment in health services and infrastructure.
Some used (arguably, misinterpreted) the UW study as evidence a lot of global health spending is misused or wasted. The Seattle number-crunchers weren’t actually saying that, of course. They were just pointing out that donors and aid organizations may need to build in better incentives to programs to avoid this counter-productive phenomenon.
But perhaps based on the concern that some were using the IHME study as evidence foreign health aid is a waste, some experts at Stanford University recently published their own analysis of the UW analysis and decided that there is “no evidence that international health is wasted.” Writing in PLoS Medicine, two experts with Stanford contend of the Seattle study:
(The) conclusions drawn from these data are unstable and driven by outliers…. While government spending may be displaced by development assistance for health in some settings, the evidence is not robust and is highly variable across countries. We recommend that current evidence about aid displacement cannot be used to guide policy.
Them’s fighting words for number crunchers. Continue reading