Update on the Millennium Villages controversy

G., a loyal MR reader, writes to me:

I imagine you may find this interesting…

The blog post: http://blogs.worldbank.org/impactevaluations/the-millennium-villages-project-impacts-on-child-mortality

The retraction on the MVP website: http://www.millenniumvillages.org/field-notes/millennium-villages-project-corrects-lancet-paper

The retraction in the Lancet:


…from the Lancet editors…http://download.thelancet.com/flatcontentassets/pdfs/S0140673612607879.pdf




Leftist fantasies intent on increasing centralized control, sympathetic reviewers not doing their job, editors not doing their job, a UK journal (the Lancet this time) debasing itself yet again, overestimation of effects, misunderstanding of math and statistics, substantial conflicts of interest of everyone involved. Surely we haven't seen that before?

Oh yes, anthropogenic global warming: http://climateaudit.org/2012/05/06/yamal-foi-sheds-new-light-on-flawed-data/#more-15956

At least we have no evidence of deliberate witholding of data by the millenium project.

+2 degrees celsius

So yet again we see people who are too useless to make a meaningful contribution to Western society are also too useless to make a meaningful contribution to African societies. Who would have guessed it?

The problem with aid is that it is the hands of aid workers. If anyone can help Africa it is engineers. Not Sociologist drop outs.

That they were not interested in a proper examination of their record is at least understandable. Not forgivable but certainly very human.

While there is lots of room for criticism here, but on what basis do you say that they are "not interested in a proper examination of their record"? The paper looks like a serious attempt to do just that. Mistakes were made, but impugning their motives is unwarranted.

So what happened that the child survival rates increased in spite of this initiative? What else was happening?

In the Lancet correction, they suggest: "rapid progress is being made nationally as well as in the Millennium Villages, and most likely for similar reasons, including the scaling up of effective low­ cost interventions such as the mass distribution of antimalarial bednets."

Antimalarial bednets? Are there the ones with low levels of DDT (speaking of another well-intentioned effort -- to ban DDT -- that many people think went awry).

It seems far more common to treat bednets with permethrin than DDT. I'm not sure if DDT bednets have ever been studied but DDT appears to lose effectiveness after about 6 months while permethrin lasts much longer.

On the other hand, DDT as a house-spraying agent has been rigorously studied and compared to antimalarial bednets -- the bednets appear to win out in terms of cost-effectiveness and actual protection against malaria. The downsize of bednets is that many people do not use them consistently. On the plus side, one permethrin-treated bednet only costs about six dollars and lasts several years.

These stories are persistent. I'm not sure I've ever seen a study that proved bednets significantly altered health results either.

Did you try actually looking for such studies? Here is a meta-analysis based on 5 randomized trials involving children:

"Fourteen cluster randomized and eight individually randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria. Five trials measured child mortality: ITNs provided 17% protective efficacy (PE) compared to no nets (relative rate 0.83, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.76 to 0.90), and 23% PE compared to untreated nets (relative rate 0.77, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.95). About 5.5 lives (95% CI 3.39 to 7.67) can be saved each year for every 1000 children protected with ITNs."


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