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Topic 2: Global Health & Poverty


As you’ve already familiarised yourself with the ideas and motivations behind Effective Altruism, we are now moving onto a specific, though very broad cause area: Global Health and Poverty. We expect the essential texts to take approximately 1 hour to read overall.  

Note that this week, you will discuss these readings in-depth at a group discussion with fellow mentees.

Essential readings (expected reading time 1h)

To first understand why we must work on this cause area, read the article ‘The Moral Imperative toward Cost-Effectiveness in Global Health' (20 min) by Toby Ord. He explains why cost-effectiveness analysis is essential in tackling global health causes. In addition, he addresses some objections to this approach. 

'The world is much better. The world is awful. The world can be much better' (4 min) is an article from the EA handbook, detailing how the world has become better, and uses this fact to motivate future problem solving. The example used is about child mortality, which is related to this week’s topic and will hopefully illustrate what working on this cause area can entail. 

Cost effectiveness of global health interventions ranges drastically, which is why it’s important to have a way of comparing them and finding the most promising ones. The article ‘Health in poor countries' (5 min) gives a more systematic evaluation of the cause area, explaining its scale, neglectedness and tractability, and gives evidence-based advice on likely best courses of action. 

For a more extensive summary of the area read ‘Global Health and Development' (15 min). The article gives the arguments for and against working on this area and discusses the strength of the evidence as well. 

Optional readings

This 'Global Poverty' post (5 min) presents more specific information about approaches in the cause area. 

Another interesting resource is ‘Are Happiness and Suffering Symmetric?' (15 min), which acts as a good summary of negative utilitarianism. 

In addition, this resource on ‘Myths about aid' (15 min) is useful in thinking about common misconceptions of developmental work. 

The website ‘How Rich am I?' (5 min) is a tool to show wealth compared to the world average, and it shows the scale of global health nicely. 

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