Intervention Reports | GiveWell

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Intervention Reports

Last updated: August 2016

This page lists interventions we have researched to identify candidates for our list of top charities. Our priority programs have the following characteristics:

  • The evidence for their effectiveness appears to have relatively high external validity and thus generalizability: it is relatively clear which components of the program are important for effectiveness, and thus we expect a higher-than-usual chance of being able to meaningfully assess a charity's impact when it focuses on these programs.
  • They appear to be potentially highly cost-effective.

Below we list the programs we have considered as potential priority programs.

For older versions of this page, see the 2009 version, the 2012 version, and our summary of our 2009-2011 criteria for evaluating programs.

Priority Programs

Program Has GiveWell completed an evidence review? GiveWell report GiveWell's current conclusion
Bednet distribution Yes Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Cash transfers Yes Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Cataract Surgery Yes Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Deworming Yes Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Immunization to prevent maternal and neonatal tetanus Yes Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Salt iodization Yes Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Seasonal malaria chemoprevention Yes, but at shallow level Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Vitamin A supplementation Yes Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Voluntary medical male circumcision to curb HIV and cervical cancer Yes Report Reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Immunizations Yes, but not up-to-date Report Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Malaria treatment Yes, but not up-to-date Report Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Mass administration of ivermectin and albendazole to control lymphatic filariasis Yes, but not up-to-date Report Review update underway
Mass administration of ivermectin to control onchocerciasis Yes, but not up-to-date Report Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV Yes, but not up-to-date Report Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Provision of anti-retroviral therapy to treat HIV/AIDS Yes, but not up-to-date Report Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Therapeutic zinc supplementation Yes, but not up-to-date Report Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Trachoma control Yes, but not up-to-date Report Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Tuberculosis case finding and first-line treatment Yes, but not up-to-date Report Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Breastfeeding promotion No Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Handwashing promotion No Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Oral rehydration therapy No Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Pneumonia treatment No Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness
Polio eradication No Probably has reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness

Other Programs We've Investigated

Program Has GiveWell completed an evidence review? GiveWell report GiveWell's current conclusion
Immunization to prevent meningitis A Yes Report Lack of room for more funding
Mass media to promote behavior change Yes Report Limited evidence of effectiveness to date
Non-therapeutic zinc supplementation/fortification Yes Report Evidence is less compelling
Water quality (filtration, chlorination) Yes Report Evidence is less compelling
Folic acid fortification In progress Review underway
Supplementary immunization activities to prevent measles In progress Review underway
Targeting the ultra-poor In progress Review underway
Condom promotion and distribution Yes, but not up-to-date Report Evidence is less compelling
Education Yes, but not up-to-date Report Evidence is less compelling
Maternal mortality reduction Yes, but not up-to-date Report Evidence is less compelling
Microfinance Yes, but not up-to-date Report Limited evidence of effectiveness
Water infrastructure Yes, but not up-to-date Report Evidence is less compelling
Antibiotics for treating child malnutrition No Not enough known to make an informed guess
Contraception distribution No Not enough known to make an informed guess
Iron supplementation/fortification No Not enough known to make an informed guess
Multiple micronutrient supplementation No Not enough known to make an informed guess
Surgery No Probably reasonably strong evidence of effectiveness but difficult to scale
Treatment of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis No Evidence is less compelling
Severe acute malnutrition Yes Report Limited evidence of effectiveness
Integrated community case management Yes Report Limited evidence of effectiveness

How We Identified Programs for Investigation

We first started working on identifying promising programs for investigation in 2009. At that time, we focused on reviewing two sources:

  • The Copenhagen Consensus, the only case we have seen of an independent panel of experts attempting to identify the most promising philanthropic investments (discussed more here)
  • Millions Saved, the best collection we have found of large-scale, well-documented past successes in international aid (discussed more here)

If a program was both featured in one of these two publications and similar to a program focused on by one or more of the charities we reviewed, we generally conducted further investigation into the program. Details on which programs are featured in these two publications, which similar programs are focused on by the charities we've reviewed, and which programs we investigated are available here (XLS).

Over time, we have added programs to this list; we have added any program that seems to potentially fit the criteria laid out at the top of the page. We place more emphasis than we previously did on external validity, and less on estimated cost-effectiveness, for reasons laid out in a 2012 blog post.