Spotlight On: Global Health

This is the second post in our "Spotlight" series, which means it provides additional details regarding the values that motivate our giving for a particular cause (If you missed our previous installment, which put the spotlight on the environment, you should check it out here!).  Our goal with this series is to underscore the care we take in selecting the recipients of our contributions so that you feel comfortable giving generously to support them.

For this installment, the spotlight's on global health.

As noted on our Causes and Values page, our global health giving is largely informed by the teachings of a group that's been labeled "effective altruists."  In general, this group seeks to answer the question of where you should give if you want your charitable giving to do the most good it possibly can.  One of its basic assumptions is that saving and protecting human lives is paramount to all other causes, which leads it to prioritize diseases and other causes of death.  The World Health Organization has found that heart disease is the world's biggest killer, so you might think that would be effective altruists' focus.  If you've been following our monthly contribution posts, however, you know that's not where we've been giving, so that must not be the case.  Why not?  In short, because the steps you'd need to take to prevent or treat heart disease are extremely costly compared to those for other diseases.  If you have a fixed budget and want to save the greatest number of lives, therefore, your money would be better donated to treat or prevent diseases like malaria, which can be done extremely cheaply.

An estimated one million people die from malaria each year—not heart disease numbers, but still enough to leave it among the leading causes of death worldwide, especially for children.  And as for costs of treatment or prevention, the Against Malaria Foundation estimates that a mosquito net, which costs about $2.50, protects an average of two people from the spread of malaria for between three and four years.  With numbers like that, it's no surprise that AMF, which purchases and distributes malaria nets in Sub Saharan Africa where the disease remains extremely widespread, is the apple in the eye of GiveWell and other effective altruist organizations.  It's also no surprise that it and other organizations providing similar services have received the last several months' worth of our global health contributions.

As always, our thinking here may evolve as time passes.  For now, however, providers of mosquito nets and other organizations addressing fixable global health problems through economical means are likely receive the benefit of the bulk of our giving for this category.