After a month of seeing video upon video of people pouring ice water, from a bucket, over their heads, the unexpected fundraiser benefiting Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), has come, mostly, to an end. Having raised over $100 million for ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, research, the challenge was fun, funny, and hugely effective.
But the success of the ice bucket challenge brings to light an interesting paradox: that the diseases whose research we donate most to fund, like breast and prostrate cancer, are not the ones that most of the population is most likely to die from. Rather, it is the more common and mundane ailments that truly plague us: heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The figures, gathered from the Center for Disease Control, and illustrated by infographic on IFL Science, are staggering. In 2013, more than $250 million was raised for breast cancer, with the disease causing just over 40,000 fatalities that year—about $6,250 per fatality dedicated to research. Compare that to nearly 600,000 deaths related to heart disease with $50 million raised for research—approximately $83 per death.
Far from lambasting the donations to specific research initiatives, the article and infographic raise questions and considerations, such as that “donating money to the best developing world health charities will reach at least 100 times as many people than if you donate to developed world health causes,” and considering more than just the number of deaths, going beyond to consider how these diseases affect lives, and the numbers of years lost.
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