Bednets for Malaria, Yes. But How?
Social marketing, for the uninitiated, is the practice of packaging and selling necessary public health stuff like condoms and essential drugs to change people's behavior for a social good. It was conceived as a way to increase coverage at the margins by targeting those who'd rather buy something than get a handout.
In recent years, groups have been experimenting with social marketing of bed nets, which are seen as an effective way to combat malaria in places like Liberia. Now the WHO is suggesting that it's not working:
Recently, Dr. Arata Kochi, the blunt new director of the World Health Organization’s malaria program, declared that as far as he was concerned, “the debate is at an end.” Virtually the only way to get the nets to poor people, he said, is to hand out millions free.
“The time for social marketing of bed nets in a big way is over,” Dr. Kochi said in an interview. “It can become a supplemental strategy for urban areas and middle-income countries.”
And here's an interesting discussion of the issue at our favorite econ blog, Marginal Revolution.