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Open Access Highly Accessed Opinion

The Lives Saved Tool (LiST) as a model for diarrhea mortality reduction

Christa L Fischer Walker* and Neff Walker

Author Affiliations

Department of International Health Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Institute for International Programs, Baltimore, MD, USA

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BMC Medicine 2014, 12:70  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-12-70

Published: 29 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Diarrhea is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children under five years of age. The Lives Saved Tool (LiST) is a model used to calculate deaths averted or lives saved by past interventions and for the purposes of program planning when costly and time consuming impact studies are not possible.

Discussion

LiST models the relationship between coverage of interventions and outputs, such as stunting, diarrhea incidence and diarrhea mortality. Each intervention directly prevents a proportion of diarrhea deaths such that the effect size of the intervention is multiplied by coverage to calculate lives saved. That is, the maximum effect size could be achieved at 100% coverage, but at 50% coverage only 50% of possible deaths are prevented. Diarrhea mortality is one of the most complex causes of death to be modeled. The complexity is driven by the combination of direct prevention and treatment interventions as well as interventions that operate indirectly via the reduction in risk factors, such as stunting and wasting. Published evidence is used to quantify the effect sizes for each direct and indirect relationship. Several studies have compared measured changes in mortality to LiST estimates of mortality change looking at different sets of interventions in different countries. While comparison work has generally found good agreement between the LiST estimates and measured mortality reduction, where data availability is weak, the model is less likely to produce accurate results. LiST can be used as a component of program evaluation, but should be coupled with more complete information on inputs, processes and outputs, not just outcomes and impact.

Summary

LiST is an effective tool for modeling diarrhea mortality and can be a useful alternative to large and expensive mortality impact studies. Predicting the impact of interventions or comparing the impact of more than one intervention without having to wait for the results of large and expensive mortality studies is critical to keep programs focused and results oriented for continued reductions in diarrhea and all-cause mortality among children under five years of age.

Keywords:
Diarrhea; Modeling; Enteric diseases; Child health; Maternal health