A recent study, discussed in African media, discovered that the ‘worm index’ is strongly related to and, therefore is a good predictor of, Human Development Index (HDI).


This evidence is believed to suggest that targeting the neglected tropical diseases, which are largely responsible for worm infections, is a developmental priority. the evidence is consistent with findings presented in a WHO report which argued that while the cost of eradicating the neglected tropical diseases is negligible, the socio-economic costs of neglected tropical diseases are massive.


While we agree that it is a good idea or indeed a priority to combat and possibly eradicate the neglected tropical diseases, we have to note that the correlation between ‘worm index’ and the Human Development Index provides no indication of whether the incidence of neglected tropical diseases reported in the news is a cause or a consequence of socio-economic development. While, obviously, a case could be made as to why preventing these tropical diseases could boost development, one could also argue that it is precisely because countries became socio-economically developed that they managed to eliminate ‘worm’ infections. Hence, investing more resources in preventing tropical diseases is a good idea, but should not become an excuse to neglect other developmental priorities.