How a health care plan quickly lowered infant mortality (MIT News)

The connection between access to health care and infant mortality is more clear than ever: MIT and Harvard economists recently published an article called “The Great Equalizer: Health Care Access and Infant Mortality in Thailand,” in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. MIT News reports:

Few problems in developing countries are as gut-wrenching as high infant mortality — and yet it is a problem that has solutions. A policy change in Thailand’s health care system has quickly led to significantly lower infant mortality rates among less-wealthy citizens, as a study co-authored by MIT economists shows.

“It’s a very dramatic shift,” says Robert Townsend, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT, and a co-author of a new paper outlining the findings. The study was conducted along with Jon Gruber, an MIT professor of economics and health care expert, and Nathaniel Hendren, an economist at Harvard University.

The researchers found that Thailand’s “30 Baht” program, which increased access to hospitals, led to a 13 percent drop in infant mortality in about a year. That change seems largely attributable to fewer infant deaths in rural areas, where previously the poor might never have entered hospitals to seek care. Continue reading on MIT News.

Professor Robert Townsend, one of the authors of the study, teaches 14.772 Development Economics, which is available on OCW. The course emphasizes dynamic models of growth and development, and has video lectures. If you’d like to learn more about the economics of the developing world, check it out.

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