Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2012

Level of Access

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program


Number of Pages



A growing body of literature on the optimal allocation of resources in controlling the spread of communicable diseases has garnered considerable attention during the last four decades. Although such literature is relatively unanimous formally speaking (i.e., marrying tools of optimal control theory with epidemiological nonlinear models), it has been quite polarized over both the theoretical question of the choice of time scale (i.e., discrete versus continuous) and, relatedly, the question of the most adequate optimization tool (Pontryagin’s Maximum Principle versus Bellman’s Dynamic Programming) to be employed in determining the lowest-cost policy for containing and eradicating the infection. This thesis theoretically investigates the roots of the discrepancies that exist between these two divided bodies of literature, seeking for ways to reconcile the results that are obtained by these two different approaches. The central analysis focuses on two pairs of articles on the control of SIS infections: 1) two classical articles written in the 1970s that disagree on the pulsing behavior of the optimal policy over discrete and continuous time, and 2) two recent articles that examine the optimal allocation of funds between multiple connected populations when the social planner faces tight budgets, pointing out the difficulties that arise in analytically solving the problem in continuous time. The implications of this theoretical investigation extend to similar models in topics as diverse as fishery management, corruption control, and crime prevention, while its practical contribution lies in carefully prescribing optimal intervention strategies for public health policymakers.

Open Access

Available to all.