Modeling Self-Protective Behaviors Against Infectious Disease: Estimates of Prevalence Elasticity for Malaria
Posted: 22 Jun 2007
Date Written: 2007
Vector-borne disease such as malaria, dengue, and diarrhea that are spread by vectors such as mosquitoes and flies are rife in the much of the developing world, potentially impacting more than two-third of the world's population. Economic epidemiology (EE) applies the economic methods originally designed to model market exchanges and adapts them to examine the "non-market" exchanges that underpin the development, spread, and control of infections and diseases. In Philipson's (2000) introduction to EE, he focuses on the critical role of private preventive behaviors in suggesting that public health interventions will be self-limiting. In adapting EE to explore its implications for vector-borne disease, Gersovitz and Hammer (2003) highlight the critical role of prevention and infection externalities and conclude that public intervention is critical. To address this ambiguity regarding the appropriate role for public health interventions, we present the first tests and measures of the relationship between the demand for prevention and disease prevalence, e.g., the prevalence elasticity of demand for prevention. Measuring prevalence elasticity is important because (1) changes in protective behaviors against infectious diseases will alter the rate of transmission and therefore affect the dynamics of disease; and (2) these behaviors involve economics costs, they affect the welfare of the affected population. This paper presents three empirical applications. The first combines data from four different sources to analyze the relationship between malaria prevalence and malaria prevention at the country level. The second and third use cross-sectional microeconomic datasets on malaria prevention and malaria prevalence in Ethiopia and India. These analyses provide consistent evidence supporting the predictions of economic epidemiology models for both malaria and diarrhea. The final part of the paper discusses some of the implications for research and policy.
Keywords: economic epidemiology, malaria prevention, micro-economic model
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