GiveWell: Why it’s important to think through all of the factors that influence a charity’s impact

January 13, 2020   |   Tanzania

[Charity evaluation is rarely straightforward. Many factors, within a charity’s control or outside of it, can influence the impact a charity has.

In this GiveWell blog, Catherine Hollander highlights R4D’s pneumonia treatment program with the Government of Tanzania — which “illustrates how thinking through these factors can lead to surprising information that changes our understanding of a charity’s impact.”]

Summary

GiveWell recommended a grant to Results for Development (R4D) in May 2016 for its recently-launched program to increase access to pneumonia treatments for children in Tanzania. We thought this program was promising enough to potentially join our short list of GiveWell top charities once we had more information on its impact.

Expanded access to treatments is a factor in reducing child mortality from pneumonia, but not the only factor. We ultimately want to know not just whether more pneumonia treatments are available in Tanzania, but whether fewer children die of pneumonia as a result of R4D’s work. We expect the program to best achieve this impact if pneumonia patients visit health clinics with treatments in stock and are diagnosed and treated correctly.

We learned as we followed R4D’s work that there was limited information available on the accuracy of clinicians’ pneumonia diagnoses. We initially guessed that clinicians were diagnosing pneumonia accurately around 80 percent of the time. R4D collected data on diagnostic accuracy and we learned that the rate of accurate pneumonia diagnosis was actually 18 percent. This caused our estimate of the program’s impact to fall, though it remains in the range that we look for in potential top charities.

To read the full blog, click here.

Photo © Results for Development/Sala Lewis

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