Linking Decision Theory and Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment: Tradeoffs Between Compliance and Efficacy for Waterborne Disease Interventions.


Achieving health gains from the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals of universal coverage for water and sanitation will require interventions that can be widely adopted and maintained. Effectiveness-how an intervention performs based on actual use-as opposed to efficacy will therefore be central to evaluations of new and existing interventions. Incomplete compliance-when people do not always use the intervention and are therefore exposed to contamination-is thought to be responsible for the lower-than-expected risk reductions observed from water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions based on their efficacy at removing pathogens. We explicitly incorporated decision theory into a quantitative microbial risk assessment model. Specifically, we assume that the usability of household water treatment (HWT) devices (filters and chlorine) decreases as they become more efficacious due to issues such as taste or flow rates. Simulations were run to examine the tradeoff between device efficacy and usability. For most situations, HWT interventions that trade lower efficacy (i.e., remove less pathogens) for higher compliance (i.e., better usability) contribute substantial reductions in diarrheal disease risk compared to devices meeting current World Health Organization efficacy guidelines. Recommendations that take into account both the behavioral and microbiological properties of treatment devices are likely to be more effective at reducing the burden of diarrheal disease than current standards that only consider efficacy.