from SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 60-Second Science - April 23, 2010
Public Health: Try the Prevent Defense
Prevention of infectious diseases in specific regions may be a better strategy than trying to develop a cure. Karen Hopkin reportsAn ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s more than a folksy aphorism when it comes to infectious diseases. Because according to a report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, it’s more cost effective to reduce the cases of a disease in hard-hit areas than to struggle to find a cure. [Robert Dunn et al., http://bit.ly/90xLbM]
The trick, say the scientists, is identifying the populations most at risk. To figure out where disease-prevention dollars would be best spent, the scientists crunched the numbers. They looked at the diversity of disease-causing organisms and at the number of victims in regions all around the world. And they examined a variety of variables, from climate conditions to the money spent on health care.
Their finding, perhaps not surprisingly, is that the places where infections are most rampant are those with the largest populations and the worst disease-control measures. The good news is: the data show that efforts to control these scourges do work. So where eradication has failed, prevention can help.
The scientists note that reducing illness in heavily populated, poor areas also lowers the chance of a disease spreading to uninfected regions. Just as it’s in your best interest to keep your neighbor’s house from going up in flames.