Attempts to eradicate malaria in Taiwan date back to at least the 1890s. But it wasn't until after World War II, and the arrival of technical and financial assistance from the developed world, that Taiwan was able to set up a health care system and embark on a successful eradication plan.
In 1952, Taiwan reported an estimated 1.2 million cases of malaria. By 1965, the World Health Organization declared that the country had eradicated the disease.
Just over a decade later, measures of health in Taiwan had improved dramatically. Over the previous two decades, life expectancy for men had risen from 58 to 68; life expectancy for women had risen from 61 to 73.
In the same period, death rates for children under age 5 dropped from 21.1 deaths per thousand children to 3.9. Meanwhile, the gross national product (GNP) per capita in Taiwan had increased more than five-fold.
Eradication of malaria alone did not transform Taiwan. For one, the country also embarked on an extensive land-reform program that buoyed efforts to rid the island of the disease. Outside Taiwan, malaria continues to kills about 2 million people a year worldwide.
In an analysis of data gathered between 1965 and 1990, economists John Luke Gallup and Jeffrey Sachs found a relationship between malaria and economic growth. Countries with intensive malaria, they discovered, grew 1.3 percent less per person a year than those that had eradicated the disease. Conversely, a 10 percent reduction in malaria correlated to a 0.3 percent higher economic growth.