Modeling the Economic Benefits of Malaria Control in Sub-Saharan Africa

Research Context

Malaria mosquito

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are nearly half a billion cases of malaria annually worldwide, with children ages 1-5 being particularly at risk. Not only does this cause a significant health problem in some parts of the world, it also carries a huge burden that impairs the economic and social development in these areas. This means that reducing the prevalence of malaria through a large-scale prevention programme has the potential to contribute considerably to sustainable economic development in the region.

Measuring the relationship between health interventions, such as malaria prevention, and economic outcomes is particularly challenging because the links between public health and economic systems are complex. An approach that takes into account the many interactions throughout an economy and allows for more reliable measurement of economic outcomes is a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model.

Research Objectives

Facilitated by a research grant from GSK Biologicals, RAND Europe is involved in enhancing CGE models for a sub-Saharan country to include health benefits impact, in particular malaria control. Simulations of the model focus on how the economy may respond to different malaria control strategies. The overall aim of this study is to enhance understanding of the role that health investments can play in stimulating growth in developing countries and to improve health policies. Given the novelty of this approach, the aspiration is that this research will also support academics and researchers seeking to further improve analysis in this area.

Specifically, our research models a country’s economic system to answer the following questions

  • What are the causal links between reducing malaria prevalence and economic growth? How do we achieve that growth?
  • What are the distributional implications? So let’s not just think about the average effect, but what happens to the lowest income group and the highest income group?
  • What are the time implications for this? How does this growth develop over time? Does it decrease actually at first and then increase later? If so, how much later?
  • And what about other influences that malaria reduction may have? What happens to the agriculture sector and what happens to manufacturing? These are other areas that decision-makers may try to develop in a country so it’s important to know how they may be affected.

Methodology

To develop our model, we look at microeconomic details, such as household behavior, to provide a foundation for macroeconomic assessments:

  • We take into account decisions from all economic actors, such as households, firms, the government, and foreign entities, so that their economic interactions leads to a balanced economy through changing prices
  • We add an aspect that explicitly concerns with malaria’s effect on workers
  • We see what happens to economic growth under 2 scenarios: (1) with no change in current malaria prevalence trends and (2) we see what happens if we improve malaria reduction even more

Potential Impact

Having more detailed and varied information can help policymakers make the best decisions for their country’s short- and long-term objectives. With regard to diseases like malaria, intervention strategies exist that are within the remit of a political decision-making process, but policymakers may not know the full economic and societal impacts of the disease. An investment decision that leads to economic growth and generates further resources for the government can be seen as a sustainable investment. We expect that our research will provide a better understanding of the extent to which investing in the fight against malaria is a sustainable investment.