Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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October 15, 2013

Here’s the Best Thing the United States Has Done in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s progress against mortality reflects the success of providing health aid that differed radically from the bulk of American aid to Afghanistan during the war. The USAID program that contributed to the decline was a multilateral effort coordinated by Afghanistan’s own Ministry of Public Health. Results were verified by random sampling, and some funding was linked to measures of performance. This internal policy experiment, however, was destined to provoke resistance. More surprising is the source of resistance to an aid program that attempted to stop simply throwing money at a problem and focus on building sustainable systems: auditors.

June 10, 2013

The Early Success of India’s Health Insurance for the Poor, RSBY

In just five years, India’s Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY, translated as “National Health Insurance Programme”) has expanded health-care access. Where dozens of “microinsurance” and NGO pilots failed to scale up, RSBY has already provided more than 110 million people (almost 10 percent of India’s population) with heavily subsidized health insurance, providing up to US$550 annually to finance secondary hospital care. Although the research evidence on RSBY is still developing, early results are encouraging: increased utilization and hospitalization; some indication of reduced out-of-pocket payments for healthcare; and a means of identification with a clearly linked entitlement. While RSBY still faces challenges, particularly on the quality of care of increased hospitalization rates, RSBY has aligned incentives for both public and private hospitals to deliver better care.

In this essay, Victoria Fan tells the story of how RSBY came into being under the leadership of Anil Swarup—whom she describes as an “unassuming officer of the Indian Administrative Service”—and outlines the program’s early successes and opportunities for future progress.

March 11, 2013

The Moral Imperative toward Cost-Effectiveness in Global Health

In this essay, Toby Ord explores the moral relevance of cost-effectiveness, a major tool for capturing the relationship between resources and outcomes, by illustrating what is lost in moral terms for global health when cost-effectiveness is ignored.

Toby Ord
February 27, 2011

Solow’s Return: Inventions, Ideas, and the Quality of Life

In his latest essay, Charles Kenny seeks to revive Solow's model of exogenous growth; growth driven by the global diffusion of new technologies and ideas. He suggests that when it comes to quality of life improvements, institutions may be less important than exogenous factors, like new vaccines, oral re-hydration therapies, or improvements in hygiene and education practices.

February 25, 2011

Getting Better in Pictures

Charles Kenny attempts to dispel development pessimists' fears in this essay summarizing his latest book Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding - And How We can Improve the World Even More (Basic Books). According to Charles, better health, education, greater access to civil and political rights, infrastructure and even beer, are all signs historic progress being made in the developing world.

June 1, 2010

Sustaining and Leveraging AIDS Treatment

In the final installation of a three-part series, Mead Over estimates the fiscal burden of international AIDS treatment programs, and suggests ways that donors, governments, and patients can sustain current treatments while preventing future cases.

May 24, 2010

Using Incentives to Prevent HIV Infections

This essay proposes ways to improve the effectiveness of HIV prevention by strengthening incentives for both measurement and achievement. It builds upon a companion essay that proposes an “AIDS Transition”—that is, a gradual reduction in the number of people infected with HIV even as those inflected live longer—as a reasonable objective of donor and government AIDS policy.

May 17, 2010

The Global AIDS Transition: A Feasible Objective for AIDS Policy

Recognizing the donors’ obligation to sustain financing for the millions of AIDS patient who would not be alive today without it, this essay proposes a dynamic paradigm for the struggle with the AIDS epidemic—“the AIDS transition” —and argues that to most rapidly achieve an AIDS transition new funding of AIDS treatment should be tightly linked to dramatically improved and transparently measured prevention of HIV infections.

August 12, 2009

Global Nutrition Institutions: Is There an Appetite for Change?

Undernutrition kills more than three million mothers and children annually, and millions more children suffer irreversible, long-term damage to their bodies and minds. Yet nutrition is too often a low priority for rich-world donors and even for governments in the most affected countries. A new CGD essay by Ruth Levine and Danielle Kuczynski shows why and offers two practical suggestions for improvement.

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Ruth Levine and Danielle Kuczynski