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Rx for Child Survival

Ask the Experts

David Bloom

David Bloom, Ph.D.

Chairman of the Department of Population and International Health, Harvard School of Public Health

When we have a quarter of all children not getting vaccinated for basic diseases, we have a huge health problem and an easy way to address it. Vaccination is the best example I know of that shows how important and effective international aid for health can be. At a tiny cost, we can prevent millions of childhood deaths every year. And there is plenty of experience to show that countries are pretty good at carrying out successful immunization programs. This is not a speculative or risky investment.

And the benefits are huge. Not only are there the obvious health benefits — both for children and for the broader community in the longer run — but there are large economic benefits for countries, and these have been only minimally recognized to date. Basically, healthy populations make it easier to have healthy, growing economies, and to reduce poverty.

Is there waste in foreign aid? Yes, of course, and we need to do much better with what we give. But programs in clean water supply, sanitation, and family planning have been enormously effective. As Americans, we should support such aid because, first, we really do care, and this is a good way to make a difference, and second, because a healthy world will be a more productive and safer world.

David Bloom is Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography and Chairman of the Department of Population and International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Born in 1955 in New York City, Bloom received a BSc from Cornell University in 1976, an MA from Princeton University in 1978, and a PhD in Economics and Demography from Princeton University in 1981. He taught in Carnegie-Mellon University's public policy school and in Harvard University's Department of Economics. He also served as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Economics at Columbia University and as deputy director of the Harvard Institute for International Development. Bloom is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Faculty Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the Book Review Board of Science Magazine, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Foundation for AIDS Research. In recent years, Bloom has written extensively on the links between health status, population dynamics, and economic growth.