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Treating children for worms yields long-term benefits: study

San Francisco, US | XINHUA | Children who receive sustained treatment against common parasitic infections grow up to achieve a higher standard of living, with long-lasting health and economic benefits extending to communities, according to research released by the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) on Monday.

The study, focusing on Kenya and covering 20 years, found that children who receive a few extra years of deworming treatment — costing as little as 50 U.S. cents a year — eventually have better jobs and higher incomes than those who got less treatment.

“We found that, in Kenya, this modest investment led to significant improvements in the lives of infected individuals and for whole communities, and the benefits are long-lasting,” said lead author Edward Miguel, a UC Berkeley development economist.

Co-author Michael Kremer, a Harvard University economist who shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in economics for developing novel ways to research poverty, added that the new findings provide an unanticipated warning about the COVID-19 pandemic: Students who lose a year or more of school — and school-based social services — suffer lasting negative impact on their work and earning power.

The research is based on treatment outcomes after about 20 years. The researchers tracked the former students as they grew up and transitioned to adult life, even those who moved within Kenya or migrated to other countries.

They found that students who received two or three years of extra treatment in the early years of the program reported significant benefits with mature adults, with hourly earnings higher by 13 percent, consumer spending higher by 14 percent.

Overall, the small investment in deworming treatment produced an annualized 37 percent rate of return. “We’re showing that, even 20 years later, there are measurable, meaningful improvements in the quality of life for these individuals,” Miguel said.

According to the study, the Nobel Committee cited Kremer’s development of such research techniques in awarding him the economics prize last year and specifically noted the team’s work on deworming in Kenya.

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