The global health and development tag can cover any post about improving public health, reducing poverty, or increasing economic growth; most of these posts will discuss the developing world, but this isn’t strictly necessary.
In 2013, roughly 767 million people lived on less than the equivalent of $1.90 per day, adjusted for purchasing power (World Bank 2016). Lack of economic resources has direct consequences on many aspects of people’s lives, including access to education and healthcare. Poverty and poor health also seriously hinder the wellbeing of millions of people. This is why economic poverty and the global burden of disease are important focus areas for effective altruism.
As a result of widening global inequality, the cost of averting death is much lower in low-income countries. For instance, GiveWell estimates the cost per child life saved through a bed-net distribution funded by the Against Malaria Foundation at about $3,500 (Give Well 2016). By contrast, the British National Health Service considers it cost-effective to spend $25,000-£37,000 for a year of healthy life saved (Rigby 2014). This means that donations to charities that work on global poverty and global health can be very cost-effective. Global inequality also affects the impact of cash transfers: given the extent of global inequality, a dollar is worth 66 times as much to a person living in extreme poverty as to the average American (Weyl 2018)
Some worry that employing aid to tackle these issues is problematic. Effective altruism has sought to address several of these concerns, including worries about aid effectiveness and aid and paternalism.
GiveWell (2016) Against Malaria Foundation, GiveWell, November.
GiveWell (2020) Your dollar goes further overseas, GiveWell, September.
Hillebrandt, Hauke (2015) The cost of fighting malaria, malnutrition, neglected tropical diseases, and HIV/AIDS, and providing essential surgeries, compared to spending on global health, Giving What We Can, June 9.
Hillebrandt, Hauke (2016) Median GDP per capita: How much does the typical person earn in different countries? A look at global inequality, Giving What We Can, May 25.
Kaufman, Jeff (2013) The unintuitive power laws of giving, Jeff Kaufman’s Blog, April 13.
MacAskill, William & Darius Meissner (2020) Global health and development, in ‘Acting on utilitarianism’, Utilitarianism.
Ord, Toby (2019) The moral imperative toward cost-effectiveness in global health, in Hilary Greaves & Theron Pummer (eds.) Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 29–36.
Rigby, Jennifer (2014) Why the NHS thinks a healthy year of life is worth £20,000, 4 News, April 23.
Weyl, E. Glen (2018) The openness-equality trade-off in global redistribution, Economic Journal, vol. 128, pp. F1–F36.
Whittlestone, Jess (2017) Global health and development, Effective Altruism, November 16.
Wiblin, Robert (2016a) Health in poor countries, 80,000 Hours, April.
Wiblin, Robert (2016b) Is global health the most pressing problem to work on ?, 80,000 Hours, April 4.
Wiblin, Robert (2016c) Smoking in the developing world, 80,000 Hours, April.
Wiblin, Robert & Keiran Harris (2021) Alexander Berger on improving global health and wellbeing in clear and direct ways, 80,000 Hours, July 12.
World Bank (2016) Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality, Washington: World Bank.