On a recent trip to Vietnam, I came across a printed copy of the Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries (2nd Ed.) first published by the World Bank in 2006. This is quite a significant book in that it provides governments of developing nations a set of tools to help them decide how to allocate their limited resources for public health.
Prior to this book, mortality was one of the key indicators that governments would look at, and resource were put toward tackling diseases that would lowering mortality rates. However this book advoated the use of DALY (Disability Adjusted Life Years), a more objective way to determine the effects of disease. To put it bluntly, this unit shows a person who dies of a disease is less a burden on a country’s economy than a person who is bedridden for the rest of their life as a result of disease (since someone has to take care of that sick person in addition). This book provided a way to weigh and compare the economic impact of each disease common in developing nations and hence provides the ability to “prioritize” the government’s response.
It is said that Bill Gates read the first edition of this book, which was published as part of the World Bank’s World Develop Report 1993: investing In Health (pdf | 6.1MB), and it influenced his decision to take on Global Health as one of the key directives of his influential (and massively endowed) Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Why do I know so much about this book?
When I was working at Forum One Communications, I was responsible for creating the information architecture and user experience of the web-enable version of the book. We created a flexible architecture for users (academics, students, practitioner and gov officials) to browse, download the whole book or create their own book by selecting chapters that are relevant for their country. I interviewed many of the authors and potential users over a couple of week and spent many hours struggling to put together a structure and design that made sense for the users. I can safely say that it was the most rewarding project in my 6 years at Forum One. Seeing the printed version of the book for the first time, in a developing country, almost brought a tear to my eye.
They were selling the book for $35, the subsidized price for developing nations (it’s $125 on Amazon), and I was sorely tempted to purchase it, but it was too heavy to lug around. Definitely on my next trip…