When it comes to getting aid right, an all-too-familiar problem seems to be balancing the priorities of rich governments with what communities actually want.
The latest study to explore the limits of donor funding assesses the system of financing for health research.
Widespread concerns about HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality and flu pandemics have driven up health funding around the world over the past couple of decades, says Oxford University researcher Devi Sridhar. Last year, funding for the provision of health services was an estimated $27.8 billion, while around $3 billion went to research in 2010.
But how is that money channelled and spent?
"Everyone is chasing the money," Sridhar quotes a former African health minister as saying, "...reputable universities, the U.N. agencies, partnerships, civil society groups - so who is doing what developing countries really need, rather than what donors want?"
What developing nations really need are better health systems to improve primary care for communities - that's at least the impression Sridhar got from talking to their ministers. It's a priority that fits into the wider global push for universal health coverage.
Yet so much health funding still revolves around a single issue.
Compared with HIV/AIDS , which received estimated funding of $10 billion in 2007, less sexy public health problems like malnutrition (which got about $300 million in 2007) and diabetes struggle, Sridhar says.
"There's another kind of logic happening, a political logic that overrides that technocracy (the expertise of health experts)," Sridhar told AlertNet.
"Even if we have good data on morbidity and mortality, how much are they actually playing into decisions on where we should put our money?"My own experience running this blogs tends to support this argument: Big, transient fusses about some scary new threat always get attention and money. If the threat might conceivably hit affluent western countries, that means even more money. Meanwhile, real global health problems like malnutrition and diarrhea afflict mostly poor children with brown or black skins.