CELEBRATE! Profile: Ameya Deepak Benegal '16

A statistics and economics double major conducted research on the effects of armed conflicts on the incidence rates of infectious diseases.

Name: Ameya Deepak Benegal

Area of study: Economics

Majors: Statistics and Economics    

Minors: International Studies and Mathematics

Faculty mentor: Steven Bednar, assistant professor of economics

Title of research: The Effects of Armed Conflicts on the Incidence Rates of Infectious Diseases


Since 1946, there have been over 245 armed conflicts that have occurred in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Conflicts represent devastating economic shocks as they hinder growth through destruction of infrastructure, cause death and displacement of skilled workers, and reduce levels of private investment. However, in the economic literature, there is a lack of discussion of the effects of armed conflict with respect to public health, which is a key driver of growth. Using data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, World Health Organization, World Bank, and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, for the years 1990-2014, I examine how battle-related deaths, deaths from non-state actors, and one-sided conflicts affect the incidence rates of several types of infectious diseases. The results suggest that for every 1,000 one-sided conflict death, the disease rate greatly increases for Malaria, Diarrheal Diseases, and specified vector-borne diseases in the concurrent year. At the same time, every 1,000 non-state conflict death greatly increases the disease rate for Malaria, specified vector-borne diseases, and Neglected Tropical Diseases in the following year. Overall, the findings show that certain conflicts do have effects on disease rates, and the burden trends tend to be greater for women than for men.

In other words:

Armed conflicts result in higher rates of infectious disease, especially for women.

Explanation of Study:

This study looks at how three different types of different types of armed conflict—one-sided conflict, battle-related conflicts, and non-state conflicts—affect the mean death rates of different types of infectious diseases over the time period 1990-2014. In this study, the paper looks at five different diseases which are: diarrheal diseases, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS and specified vector borne diseases, which in this case are vector-borne diseases that fly such as mosquitoes and sandflies. Additionally, the data on disease is sub-aggregated by gender allowing for gender comparisons to see if the diseases tend to greatly affect males versus females more for specified conflicts and diseases. The main findings suggest that one-sided conflicts and non-state conflicts have the greatest effects for diarrheal diseases, malaria and the specified vector borne diseases. In addition, these effects tend to have a greater impact for women than men.

What made this research interesting to you? How did you get started?

Since my first year at Elon, I have always wanted to do my research on a subject related to armed conflict or terrorism and its economic impacts. At the same time, I have always been interested in public health, especially after living in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak, and also learning more about immunology and epidemiology in high school. Yet my thoughts of conducting more serious research in this topic occurred after internship experiences in India and in Washington, D.C. In India, I worked with Hindu refugees and compiled a water, sanitation, and hygiene assessment for different settlements. In Washington, I worked with RTI International and learned more about the company’s work in assessing infectious diseases’ incidence rates, such as neglected tropical diseases. Lastly, while interning with RTI, I came across an economics research paper discussing how conflict affects malaria incidence rates in neighboring countries, and decided to focus on conflict and public health as it combined my areas of interest, and was a topic not widely researched by many economists.