A Matter of Perspective

Imagine that there are two regional health systems, each responsible for providing health care for one million people. The Director of each system has enough money to fund only one of two medical treatment programs. The health systems have the same limited budget and are the same in every way except for the treatment program that each Director decides to fund.

One Director decides to fund Program A, which will cure 100 people with moderate shortness of breath. People with this condition have shortness of breath when walking an average block with no hills.

The other Director decides to fund Program B, which will cure 100 people with severe shortness of breath. People with this condition have shortness of breath even when walking only short distances, such as from the bedroom to the bathroom.

Which Director made the better decision?

  • Director who funded Program A (moderate shortness of breath)
  • Director who funded Program B (severe shortness of breath)
  • Both choices were equally good

If you chose either the Program A Director or the Program B Director, how may how many people would have to be cured of other condition to make the two choices seem equally good to you? Reminder: Program A and Program B would both cure 100 people.

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