The Health Crisis in the Developing World and What We Should Do About It

William W. Fisher III and Talha Syed

forthcoming, Stanford University Press, 2017

Chapter 1: The Diseases

This chapter describes the infectious diseases that together are the primary cause of the health crisis in the developing world. Our ambition, of course, is not to provide a comprehensive guide to these ailments. Rather, we highlight the aspects of each disease and the mechanisms by which it is or might be controlled that are germane to our effort to identify potential solutions to the health crisis. Much more detail concerning each disease can be obtained by consulting the sources listed at the end of each section of the chapter.

The diseases might be organized in a variety of ways: by similarity of symptoms; by mode of transmission; by geographic distribution; by severity of disease burdens; and so forth. In this chapter, we have used categories corresponding to the types of organisms that cause them. The reason we have chosen this approach is that it is most likely to illuminate ways in which the diseases might be suppressed. At the end of the chapter, we include tables showing alternative ways of organizing them.

As should be apparent from the many missing links in the list below, we have not completed our analysis of all of the diseases. We will be filling in the blanks in the coming months. In the meantime, comments concerning either the extant pieces of our survey or the merits of our overall approach are more than welcome.

Viral Diseases

Bacterial Diseases

  • Tuberculosis
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Pertussis
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Leprosy
  • Trachoma

Protozoan Diseases

  • Malaria
  • Trypanosomiasis
  • Chagas
  • Leishmaniasis

Helminth-based Diseases

  • Schistosomiasis
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Onchocerciasis
  • Ascariasis
  • Trichuriasis
  • Hookworm

Multi-causal Diseases

  • Diarrhoeal Diseases
  • Meningitis


Version 1.0; last modified: March 6, 2016