Maternal and child health is prioritized in most  countries. This leads us to give less priority to the treatment of  chronic diseases in adults, such as AIDS. What is the basis for such  priorities?

Such prioritization is justified within standard health economic models which seek "more health for every penny". The measurement of health is quality adjusted life years, or in development terms: Burden of Disease as measured by Disability Adjusted Life Years (Daly). Many, however, have questioned whether the standard methods used are consistent with our ethical intuitions.

Should non-health costs and consequences of a treatment be considered when its value is assessed? Low income patients endure, for example, high costs of transport to get treatment. This is not included in the cost calculation today. Many would also argue that adults with dependents must receive priority. Some tropical diseases do not cause high morbidity, but have major consequences for school performance. This is also not considered when the benefits of a treatment are calculated. We will present an international collaborative project involving scientists in Bergen, Seattle, Washington DC, India and Ethiopia which aims to develop a better method to calculate the benefit of health care in resource-poor areas, and thus can be helpful when making decisions about what we should prioritize development aid.

Reidar K. Lie is a medical doctor and philosopher. He is Head of the Department of Philosophy at UiB. Ole Frithjof Norheim is professor in medical ethics at UiB and a medical doctor at Haukeland University Hospital.

Publications

Journal Article | 2009

Eliciting people's preferences for the distribution of health. A procedure for a more precise estimation of distributional weights

In order to incorporate distributional concerns into cost-effectiveness analysis, it would be useful to elicit distributional weights that express people's valuation of marginal health gains at various levels of health....
Ottar Mæstad and Ole Frithjof Norheim (2009)
in Journal of Health Economics vol. 28 no. 3 pp. 570-577
Journal Article | 2009

Preventable maternal death: a violation of women's rights

More than one woman dies every minute from preventable causes in childbirth, and for every woman who dies as many as 30 others are left with lifelong, debilitating complications. Moreover,...
Alicia Ely Yamin (2009)
in Health and Human Rights
Journal Article | 2009

Shades of dignity: exploring the demands of equality in applying human rights frameworks to health

The foundational principle of human rights is that all human beings are equal in rights, dignity, and worth. Yet we live in a world ravaged by social inequalities both within...
Alicia Ely Yamin (2009)
in Health and Human Rights vol. 11 no. 2 pp. 1-18
Journal Article | 2009

Suffering and powerlessness: The significance of promoting participation in rights-based approaches to health

In a rights framework, participation is inextricably related to power. Through effective participation, we can challenge political and other forms of exclusion that prevent people from having power over the...
Alicia Ely Yamin (2009)
in Health and Human Rights vol. 11 no. 1 pp. 5-22
Journal Article | 2009

The right to health, scarce resources, and equity: inherent risks in the predominant legal interpretation

Octávio Luiz Motta Ferraz, Fabiola Sulpino Vieira (2009)
in DADOS - Revista de Ciências Sociais vol. 52 no. 1 pp. 223-251
Journal Article | 2008

Distribution matters: Equity considerations among health planners in Tanzania

Background: Maximising health as the guiding principle for resource allocation in health has been challenged by concernsabout the distribution of health outcomes. There are few empirical studies that consider these...
Trygve Ottersen, Deogratius Mbilinyi, Ottar Mæstad, Ole Frithjof Norheim (2008)
in Health Policy vol. 18 pp. 218-227

Projects