We’re winning the war on malaria — while saving millions of lives

Angolan children with a bednetAlison Bird/USAID

Usually, days designated to raise awareness for a specific disease are depressing affairs. It seems like that should be doubly true today, on World Malaria Day: It’s a disease so devastating that some scholars estimate it has killed half of all people ever to have existed.

But this year’s day is surprisingly upbeat. The theme is “End Malaria for Good” — and it’s not just wishful thinking. That’s a goal that could be accomplished in our lifetime.

In the past 15 years, malaria deaths have plummeted — from 839,000 in the year 2000 to just 438,000 in 2015…

Africa is the continent that’s by far been the worst affected by malaria in recent years…and that’s where most of the gains against malaria have been won.

A major 2015 study in Nature, one of the world’s premiere scientific journals, was the first to formally quantify the prevalence of malaria across sub-Saharan Africa between 2000 and 2015 (many afflicted countries aren’t very good at collecting data). They found that the incidence of the disease had declined by 40 percent continent-wide.

This owes, in large part, to a global campaign to reduce malaria’s spread. According to the Nature study, “interventions” to stop malaria’s spread had prevented 663 million cases of malaria over the course of the examined time period.

That’s a much higher number than the reductions in deaths…because malaria isn’t always fatal. Which means that malaria interventions don’t just save lives: They also prevent an untold amount of suffering.

Sixty-eight percent of the reduction in malaria cases came from a very simple tool: bednets. Malaria is principally spread by mosquitos, so the best way to stop its spread is to give people insecticide-treated bednets (ITNs) that prevent mosquitos from biting them while they sleep. Between 2000 and 2015, governments and charities undertook a massive effort to distribute malarial bednets, passing out roughly 1 billion ITNs globally.

Clearly, it worked…

RTFA…Nothing wrong with good works – even a little at a time.

Obamacare is reducing the medical debt of low income Americans

…A new study is showing that, by giving health insurance to low-income people, Obamacare seems to have cut down on their debt substantially. It estimates that medical debt held by people newly covered by Medicaid since 2014 has been reduced by about $600 to $1,000 each year.

The study…by the National Bureau of Economic Research, builds on earlier evidence from Oregon and Massachusetts that offering health insurance to low-income Americans can help them avoid debt and financial shocks…

Robert Kaestner, one of the authors of the new study, said he and his co-authors think the financial impacts of Medicaid could have cascading effects for the program’s beneficiaries. Previous research has linked hospitalizations among the uninsured to higher risk of bankruptcy, unpaid bills and a lowered credit score…

The new study homed in on the impacts for the lowest-income Americans. The researchers examined credit reports on a sample of Americans across the country. They compared debt incurred by people in two very different sets of states: those that expanded Medicaid to provide free insurance to all individuals earning under about $16,000 and those that either chose not to cover that popuation or had expanded their programs earlier…

Over two years, they didn’t find major changes in every measure of financial distress. But Medicaid expansion did move the needle on the number of bills sent to collections and the amount of debt sent to collections. That’s important because that’s the pattern of debt-stressed people after an expensive health crisis, Mr. Kaestner said.

The authors pointed out that the lower debt burden for the newly insured indirectly helps other people. The credit reports also track debt and unpaid bills outside of health care. The insurance coverage means more bills are paid to doctors and hospitals — but also to banks, utility companies and landlords.

Those ripples are like the parallel effect of minimum wage. Unlike the stuffed shirts who oppose raising the minimum wage – or having one at all – folks in that wage category spend 100% of any increase. It’s not like folks earning $75K annually getting a $5K raise. The money doesn’t go into your investment account or upgrading your entertainment center. Consumer goods and services get the benefit.

In the case of medical bills staying current, you have the funds to pay all or some of the rest of your sustaining bills. Important stuff for lots of folks in the Free World.

San Francisco code now requires solar panels on new buildings less than 10 stories high

Click to enlargeSunPower

❝ Never mind that San Francisco is known for waves of fog rolling in from the bay. This week, it became the first major city in the United States to mandate solar panels on new buildings with fewer than 10 floors.

The Better Roofs Ordinance, unanimously approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, builds off of existing California law that requires 15 percent of new rooftops to be “solar ready.” Now, those solar-ready roofs will have to include functioning solar panels.

…A definite boost to clean power…given the city’s goal of running 100 percent on renewables by 2025…

❝ The ordinance could have an immediate impact on more than 200 building projects currently in the works. This will “avoid over 26,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year” according to the Department of the Environment, reports the San Francisco Examiner, enough to power roughly 2,500 homes annually.

It does help to be in a state with national leadership in almost every aspect of improving the environment. Certainly, part of that is a reflection of government working to cure problems of their own creation. Like way too many cars and too little public transit. A special part of California’s history.

Kudos to San Francisco.