Art Carden  

Happy Global Hand-Washing Day! Fighting Disease By Washing Hands With Soap

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In this TED talk, Myriam Sidibe discusses the public health effects of hand-washing. She makes an interesting and important claim: a lot of families in India have soap, but they use it to wash clothes, bathe, and wash dishes because they view soap as a precious commodity.

This increases my confidence that Bryan is exactly right: we're neglecting the obvious: do we get more bang for our buck by redistributing wealth, training public health workers, or by encouraging the economic growth that will give people the incomes they need to buy more soap and install indoor plumbing (here's a brief primer on the equal marginal principle to illustrate the trade-offs)?


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Greg G writes:

>---"do we get more bang for our buck by redistributing wealth, training public health workers, or by encouraging the economic growth that will give people the incomes they need to buy more soap and install indoor plumbing...?"

This begs the question by assuming a false dichotomy where one must come at the expense of the other.

Some methods of redistribution will improve public health and prosperity while others will be a poor use of resources. The kind of infrastructure that provides for clean water and the removal of sewage is extremely effective at improving public health even when it involves redistribution of wealth, which it almost always does.

ThomasH writes:

One of the reasons we want growth is that it provides more resources to redistribute and promote public health, smarter regulation, etc.

Greg G writes:

Do you think we should fight ebola by "encouraging economic growth" or by using some measures that target ebola more specifically than that, even if those measures require using some resources acquired by "redistribution"?

Anne writes:

and back to the dis-integration of health care? http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/how-american-health-care-killed-my-father/307617/

when I was studying to get my BSN,each and every Nursing test, all four years,regardless of the course, contained the question, "What is the best way to stop the spread of disease?" The correct answer was always, "Hand washing."
Nurses, as compared to other health care professionals, are good about hand washing...http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=712481


Greg G writes:

Anne

You are quite right. I had a couple operations in the last few years and watched with interest as healthcare professionals did or didn't wash their hands as they entered my hospital room.

Nurses were the best. Doctors were the worst. Well over a century after the germ theory of disease was proven it's remarkable how many doctors haven't gotten the message yet.

michael pettengill writes:

Do those who consider soap a luxury have running potable water?

Using soap to wash hands in river water hardly seems worth the soap.

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