Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book Review: The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria

The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria, by Randall M. Packard 

This was disappointing. I'm not sure how many times a book can re-write variations of the sentence, "Changing social and economic conditions transformed the ecological relationship of malaria parasites and human hosts, resulting in a decline/increase in malaria burden," but the author exceeded his allotment by quite a bit.  It's a useful point, and one well worth making, but I'm not sure if I've ever read a book that hammers its point so repetitively. 

Also, I'm not sure that it is a very productive argument.  Yes, improving social and economic conditions would be great for decreasing malaria, but no one argues that we shouldn't improve social and economic conditions for people around the world.  While we're working for social and economic betterment, what can we do to manage and control malaria rates as efficiently and effectively as possible?  Here the book is disappointingly quiet.  There are many discussions of failed malaria programs, but few examples of effective programs that could be repeated or adapted by poor governments in developing countries. 

This book had some useful information, and it wasn't a total waste of time, but I'd only recommend it to someone desperate to gain a bit of background on malaria and willing to plow through a lot of tedium to gain that basic background.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Making development work: from farms to factories

Charles Kenny's article about the importance of "real" jobs is the most interesting thing on development that I've read in the past few months:
But worldwide, by far the most common way out of poverty in rural and urban areas alike is getting a job working for a company... Having a regular, paying job "may thus be the most important difference between the poor and the middle class," conclude Banerjee and Duflo. 
"Well paid" and "good" are relative terms when it comes to unemployment on a global scale... Nonetheless, these jobs are still better than other options--such as begging or hawking on the street or subsistence farming.  
So for all of the grind of the 9-to-5, the great majority of the planet would be absolutely delighted to get a position with regular hours and a regular paycheck.  And successful economic development--significantly raising incomes above subsistence--is about helping people achieve that dream...  In the long term, economic development is about moving millions off the small farm and into jobs.