2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences &  Recognizes Research Helpful to Public Health

One of the Nobel Prize awards caught my eye because it has such a direct link to the social determinants of global health.  It's a great example of the importance of doing and using solid research to inform public health interventions.  

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics to researchers Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kramer for their work to build the evidence base for methods to reduce global poverty.

The primary driver of bad health outcomes is poverty (not just globally- here too).  More than 700 million people have extremely low incomes and 5 million kids under 5 die of diseases that could often have been prevented or cured with inexpensive interventions.

The researchers that won this year's economics award developed a new way to identify evidence-based strategies to fight global poverty- and improve public health outcomes. 

Much of their research involves breaking down research questions into smaller pieces. Their research (and others that have followed in their footsteps) are having a big influence on organizations that are implementing interventions to fight poverty by measuring the effectiveness of interventions in the areas of health care and prevention, education, agriculture and gender issues. For example: 

  • One of their studies found that immunization rates for children in rural India jumped dramatically (from 5% to 39%) when their families are offered incentives like lentils.

  • Their work in rural Kenya and in India found that providing more textbooks, school meals and teachers didn't do much to help students learn more.

  • They found that providing free health care makes a big difference... only 18% of parents gave their children de-worming pills for parasitic infections when they had to pay for them (even though the price was less than $1). But 75% gave their kids the pills when they were free.

These are just a few examples of how this new research has already helped to alleviate global poverty. It also has great potential to further improve the lives of the worst-off people around the world.

What caught my eye about this award and their work is how important it is to connect academic and executive public health and public policy!

You can learn more about Research to help the world’s poor in this 7-page paper on the Nobel website