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Making Medical Donations Work

By Tina Rosenberg

In Friday’s Fixes column I wrote about organizations that collect usable surplus equipment and supplies from hospitals in the United States and ship it to hospitals that need them in poor countries.   Readers were generally enthusiastic about the environmental and health benefits of this idea, but some offered important cautions. Homira from Wash, D.C. (15) wrote:  “There are a slew of complex issues that make donations of any kind aside from financial  really poor practice for trying to help developing countries. When it comes to medical equipment donations, the consumables necessary to operate many of these machines, such as x-ray film, reagents, etc,  are often not considered prior to the donations; nor is life-cycle costing and maintenance and operational costing and support figured in. Subsequently we see a lot of discarded medical equipment lying around clinics, hospitals and dump sites in low-income countries we work in.”
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Making Low-Interest Auto Loans Work

By Lisa Margonelli

David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg are on vacation.

Last week I wrote about the New England-based program More Than Wheels, which helps people get low-interest loans on new or good used cars, and allows them to save money on repairs, gas and financing. Most of the commenters — especially those who live in rural areas — liked the idea of the program, but there were a few persistent questions and issues:

Are cars necessary?
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On the Road, and Out of the Red

By Lisa Margonelli

David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg are on vacation.

In March 2010, Tammy Trahan’s 1993 Jeep Cherokee broke down on one of the New Hampshire back roads that made up her 90-mile daily commute. “I was in tears,” says Tammy, “I wanted to drive into the river.” As a single mom, the car was her lifeline, taking her to the job that kept her and her family barely afloat. But the car was also dragging her down. Because a bad divorce had left her with terrible credit, she’d paid such high interest rates that the car with a $9000 sticker price when she bought it seven years earlier ended up costing her $20,000 in payments. She’d also paid many thousands of dollars in repair charges. Gasoline for the behemoth cost her as much as $500 a month. Despite the fact that she worked full time and had as many as four side jobs, she had no savings at all, and the latest breakdown meant she’d be late for work again. On that cold morning by the side of the road Trahan despaired: “I was afraid I’d be in the same rut forever.”
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Salvaging Medical Cast-Offs to Save Lives

By Tina Rosenberg

When Dr. Bruce Charash arrived in Cotonou, Benin, in May 2007, he went from the airport to Hubert Maga Hospital.  Charash is the founder of a Brooklyn-based organization called Doc2Dock, which collects surplus medical equipment from hospitals in the United States and ships it to hospitals in poor countries.  As Charash’s plane was landing, a container of medical equipment and supplies had docked, destined for Hubert Maga.
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Slashing the Price of Health With Common Sense

By David Bornstein

As health care costs continue to spiral out of control, it’s often forgotten that one of the best ways to lower health care expenditures is to reduce the amount of medical care that’s needed to keep people healthy. This is no revelation. However, because of the financial incentives in our health system, the things we can do to promote health, and prevent illness, are not prioritized.
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