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Doctoral student Andrew Siroka aims to promote a more scientific and cost-effective approach to allocating scarce global public health resources.
Global Health Aid has more than tripled since 1995, but the amount invested each year to improve health in low and middle-income countries – $30 billion – is less than half of what is needed to fight the myriad public health challenges these nations face, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). How to get the most out of limited health resources? Andrew Siroka is interested in conducting research that will help to set global public health spending priorities, while pointing policy makers toward the most cost-effective treatments.
Siroka, a second-year Ph.D. student in the school’s Department of Health Policy and Management, notes that such studies can facilitate a more rational approach to addressing global health needs. “Currently, these decisions are heavily influenced by lobbying groups and the popularity of combating certain global health issues,” he says. “Some funding priorities may be deemed sexier because famous people are promoting them or they produce more immediate results than investing in something like infrastructure, which might be more important in the long run. Given the scarcity of resources, a more scientific system of allocation is needed, based on the global burden of disease and efficiency of treatments.”
Siroka believes such research will underscore the cost-effectiveness of public health interventions for infectious diseases that disproportionately affect low and middle-income countries. For example, the WHO-promoted strategy to control tuberculosis, known as directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS), enlists family members, friends and neighbors to help ensure that people with active tuberculosis adhere to their daily medication regimen. “This takes very little of the clinician’s time and helps to keep people from developing drug-resistant tuberculosis, which can be very expensive to treat,” Siroka explains.