Friday, March 6, 2009

Carter Center and PSI

Givewell has a new review of the Carter Center, focusing on its health programs, which comprise 80% of total spending. The summary chart includes a section "What does $100 do?" with some impressive figures, including one of the following depending on the program:
  • "Averts 12-25 cases of guinea worm," or
  • "Averts 10-50 years of serious debilitation (blindness, low vision, or irritating skin disease)," or
  • "Averts 1-30 years of blindness and another 1-30 years of low vision (surgeries); little or unknown (other components)," or
  • "Averts 15-85 total years of lymphedema (swollen limbs) and 25-165 total years of hydrocele (swollen scrotum)," or
  • "Enables ~29 additional years of school attendance by treated children," or
  • "Averts 10-47 malaria episodes (1 in ~320 is fatal)."
These are some excellent concrete scenarios to imagine when you're wondering, say, whether to spend $100 on a luxury or whether making an extra $100 is really that important.

Givewell's previous recommendation of Population Services International still stands. The 2007-2008 report concluded:
We estimate that it costs PSI $650-$1000 to prevent a case of HIV/AIDS and $500-$2500 to prevent a death from malaria; across the organization, we estimate that it costs PSI about $650-$1000 to save a life. These estimates do not include other benefits of PSI's activities, such as preventing unwanted pregnancies and reducing non-fatal malaria infections.
PSI is arguably a better choice than the Carter Center for international health, inasmuch as it devotes its entire budget to the task, rather than just 80%, but a specific examination of treatments would be in order. Either one seems like an excellent choice.

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