Another last mile problem – vitamin supplements in the developing world

The Economist points out another last mile problem in fighting global poverty and argues for more nudges.

What is needed are little interventions: adding iodine to salt here, doling out vitamin A supplements there. Even relatively small doses work. Yet they also raise one of the great puzzles of development. These are, by some measures, the best investments you could make. When the Copenhagen Business School asked some Nobel-winning economists the best way to spend money to help the world, nutritional projects topped the poll. Vitamin A supplements cost just a dollar or two. Their benefits—preservation from fatal diseases, higher lifetime earnings—so massively outweigh the tiny costs that poor people ought to snap them up. Yet they don’t. Orwell put his finger on why. The poor want something tasty. They may not believe nutritional experts who promote special diets (rich Westerners have been known not to stick to diets, too). Or food itself may not be their priority. As Orwell said, “There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you.”

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