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This impressive study by ETC researcher Patricia Geli and colleagues at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control provides a great illustration of cost versus benefit in public health. Researchers regularly screened all children in day care centers in two study areas for a resistant form of Penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, and sent children colonized with the bacteria home for over a month on average. That’s right, even healthy children, those colonized but not infected, were taken out of day care. The results show this a very effective way to curb spread of the infection, as active intervention made a new case 6.4 times less likely, but you have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

Each prevented case cost two other families a month of day care. As far as we know, an intervention of this magnitude hasn’t been attempted outside of Sweden. As you can imagine, this level of regulation would be nearly impossible to implement in most other countries—the US included. Are there far less costly interventions that might have a similar impact on infection rates? What about just putting fewer kids in each room or making sure everyone washes their hands?

2 Comments

What about the parents? Besides being out a month of daycare, they also have to stay home from work and find other ways to care for their children.

Yes, that's why it's really really not cost effective. See Patricia's new post on alternative interventions. While less impactful there are some that make a lot more sense.