School-based deworming

Reduces school absenteeism by up to 25% for just pennies per treatment

The Problem

Parasitic worms harm children's health and development and limit their participation in school. 

Over 600 million school-age children are at risk of infection with parasitic worms (soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomes) across the globe. These infections are chronic and widespread, damaging children’s health and development and limiting their participation at school. Worms can cause anemia, malnourishment, and impairment of mental and physical development.

The Solution

For just pennies per treatment, deworming pills administered through school programs can improve health and increase attendance.

School-based deworming is a safe, simple, and cost-effective solution. With more schools than clinics, and more teachers than health workers, the existing and extensive education infrastructure provides the most efficient way to reach the highest number of school-age children. With support from the local health system, teachers can administer treatment to large numbers of school-age children with minimal training.

The Evidence

Rigorous evidence shows that school-based deworming is a cost-effective solution that transforms the lives of children over the short and long term. A 2007 study of an early 20th century hookworm eradication effort in the southern United States found treatment to increase school enrollment, attendance, literacy, and adult incomes. Chronic hookworm infection reduced adult wages by 43%.

A randomized trial in Kenya in the early 2000s found that school-based deworming:

Spillover effects of treatment provide benefit to untreated school-age and preschool children as well. Young siblings of those treated and children who live nearby, but were too young to be dewormed, showed gains in cognitive development, equal to half a year of schooling.

With a total per child cost of less than $0.50 per year, the Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT (J-PAL) lists mass school-based deworming as a “best buy” in both education and health. The Copenhagen Consensus Center in 2008 and again in 2012 identified school-based deworming as one of the most efficient and cost-effective solutions to the global challenges facing us today.

School-based deworming programs leverage the existing and extensive infrastructure of schools and the documented importance of convenience in achieving high take up of health prevention. The cost of each year of additional schooling is only $7.19 and the estimated annual return (from longer hours worked and higher wages) is 42% per annum.

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