The GiveWell Blog

Some considerations against more investment in cost-effectiveness estimates

When we started GiveWell, we were very interested in cost-effectiveness estimates: calculations aiming to determine, for example, the “cost per life saved” or “cost per DALY saved” of a charity or program. Over time, we’ve found ourselves putting less weight on these calculations, because we’ve been finding that these estimates tend to be extremely rough… Read More

Errors in DCP2 cost-effectiveness estimate for deworming

Two notes on this post: This post discusses flaws in a particular published cost-effectiveness estimate for deworming. It should not be taken as a general argument against deworming as a promising intervention, and it does not address various other publications on deworming including the 2003 paper by Edward Miguel and Michael Kremer. Prior to publication,… Read More

DALYs and disagreement

Elie thinks that fistula is worse than death. jsalvati disagrees. I’d rather bring someone to full health than save an infant’s life. Ryan agrees, but Basti does not and Ron Noble emphatically does not. It’s possible that we would all agree if we knew more about the lives of people in the developing world, or… Read More


Coming across the current feature on the DCPP’s home page reminds me of how much I care about the issue of obstetric fistula. The following are highlights from the article linked above (emphasis mine): For countless women in developing countries, going into labor is the painful beginning of a lifetime of unremitting shame and misery… Read More

Disability-Adjusted Life Years II: Variations

Previously, I outlined the basics of the Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) metric. It takes the approach of converting all health burdens into equivalent “years of healthy life lost”: a year of blindness is counted as .6 lost years, a year of severe malnutrition is counted as .053 lost years, etc. This post discusses two common… Read More

Disability-Adjusted Life Years: Introduction

We’ve had many discussions in the comments about the metric known as Disability-Adjusted Life-Years (DALYs). The DALY essentially converts the burdens imposed by all health issues – from premature death to blindness to injuries – into a single, consistent unit. It is the metric of choice for the Disease Control Priorities Project as well as… Read More