medical research Tony Karumba | getty images

The Right Targets for Global Health Investment

Panic about viruses like Zika, Ebola, SARS, and Avian Flu has spread far more rapidly than the diseases. In reality, the global death toll from all of them, combined, is tiny compared to that from major infectious diseases that we hear much less about: diarrhea, tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria, tetanus, or measles.

COPENHAGEN – If the global media were your only source of information, you could be forgiven for thinking that the world’s biggest health concern right now is the Zika virus, or that last year it was Ebola – or SARS and the Avian Flu before that.

Panic about these contagions has spread far more rapidly than the diseases. In reality, the global death toll from all of them, combined, is tiny compared to that from major infectious diseases that we hear much less about: diarrhea, tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria, tetanus, or measles. The death toll from non-communicable diseases like strokes and heart attacks is higher still.

Global decision-makers such as governments and donors are faced with competing priorities, but often they do not explicitly or transparently choose among them. Because the media’s attention is on Zika, Ebola, or SARS, more spending goes to them.

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