Panel examines cost of not investing in global child health

BOSTON — A panel discussion titled “The Cost of Inaction: The Consequences of Failing the World’s Children,” was presented Tuesday by The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with GlobalPost. 

The panel focused on the Cost of Inaction (COI) approach to evaluating interventions, especially for children affected by poverty or HIV/AIDS. The COI approach focuses on the social and economic cost of not doing something, as opposed to evaluating the costs and benefits of doing something.

On the panel were The Cost of Inaction's main author, Sudhir Anand; Timothy Thahane, former minister of finance and development planning of Lesotho; Julio Frenk, Dean of Harvard School of Public Health; and Countess Albina du Boisrouvray, Founder of FXB. The panel was moderated by Sam Loewenberg, GlobalPost Special Reports’ lead reporter on child health.

The event precedes an ambitious project that GlobalPost will launch later this year examining child health around the world.

Sudhir Anand Explains the Concept

The cost of not doing something is often overlooked and hard to prove, said Dean of Harvard School of Public Health Julio Frenk.

“We are often selling the absence of an outcome,” said Frenk. “It’s hard to persuade politicians to spend money when something is not going to happen.”

The COI approach, Frenk added, can provide a tool to measure these elusive costs.

This type of analysis applies specifically to children, according to The Cost of Inaction — the book that introduces the COI concept — co-authored by Sudhir Anand and published by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights in October 2012. Failures to invest in child nutrition and health, the book says, can have negative effects throughout a child’s life.

“Inaction in relation to children,” reads the book’s introduction, “can be particularly serious because it can impede their development and lead to negative outcomes in later life which may be large and irreversible.”

On the other hand, "when you invest in children," said former minister of finance and development planning in Lesotho Timothy Thahane, "you are creating a platform for that community or society in 10, 15, 20 years time to be better than it would have otherwise been."

Timothy Tahane on Investing in Children