“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” –General George Patton

I always enjoy creative solutions to problems. It is one of the reasons I enjoy studying behavioral economics. Really smart people find simple ways to get other people to do what they want (in a positive way). This story is a great example.

Drug resistant tuberculosis (drug resistant anything really) is a major and dangerous problem. The best way to prevent strains of TB from becoming drug resistant is for patients to take the antibiotics for 6 months. However, the drugs have side effects. There is very little individual benefit for a person to continue taking the drug, while there are vast benefits for the population if the individual does. So some brilliant guy from MIT came up with a solution.

From the article:

“José Gómez-Márquez, program director for the Innovations in International Health program at MIT, and his collaborators developed a simple paper-based test that detects metabolites of the TB drug in urine. The metabolite reacts with chemicals in the paper, revealing a simple numerical code. A patient would take the test daily and text the code to a central database. Those who take the drugs consistently for 30 days would be rewarded with cell-phone minutes.”


H/T: Freakonomics

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