Biodiversity Conservation and Child Malaria: Microeconomic Evidence from Flores, Indonesia
In remote areas of developing countries, people‟s health and livelihoods are closely intertwined with the condition of the natural environment. Unfortunately, claims regarding the role of ecosystem degradation on disease outcomes rest on a short list of rigorous empirical studies that consider social, cultural and economic factors that underpin both ecosystem disruptions and behaviors related to exposure, prevention and treatment of diseases such as malaria. As the human ecological tradition suggests, omitting behaviors can lead to erroneous interpretations regarding the nature of the relationship between ecological changes and disease. We specify and test the relationship between child malaria prevalence and forest conditions in a quasi-experimental setting of buffer zone villages around a protected area, which was established to conserve biodiversity on Flores, Indonesia. Multivariate probit regressions are used to examine this conservation and health hypothesis, controlling for several individual, family and community variables that could confound this hypothesized link. We find that the extent of primary (protected) forest is negatively associated with child malaria, while the extent of secondary (disturbed) forest cover is positively correlated with child malaria, all else equal. This finding emphasizes the natural insurance value of conservation because children are both especially vulnerable to changes in environmental risks and key players in the future growth and prosperity of a society.
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