I ask because there's a fascinating blog post -- Malaria, past and present -- over at Aidwatch. Laura Freschi takes a book review in Harper's because "it shows the historical roots of a struggle still raging in public health assistance today". That struggle is the unequal battle between simple, easy silver bullets and difficult, complex systems thinking.

As early as the 1920s, a group of researchers from the League of Nations put forth the theory that to fight malaria you also had to fight the social and economic conditions that caused it to flourish. Their recommended program of “rural uplift” called for swamp drainage, economic development, better housing, education, and health care in malaria-stricken areas. According to Epstein, this strategy had a steady string of successes, slowly eradicating malaria where it was tried in Italy, Borneo and the American South.

But scientists from the Rockefeller Foundation thought that mass-production of powerful insecticides (DDT) would be the silver bullet that would wipe out the disease, without having to improve people’s basic living conditions.

Malaria? DDT! Malnutrition? Supplements of one kind or another! But the parallels go deeper than that, because using food and diet was the initial approach of the World Health Organization and others, before the supplement manufacturers (and prescribers) captured the  initiatives. Could malaria and malnutrition learn from one another's history? I'd like to think so, but on present evidence, I'm not optimistic.

p.s.: 21 September 2017 Interesting that Aid Watch has archived its own posts; thanks for that.

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