If you Google such phrases as "Flu in the U.S." (or similar phrases for the world), you will get hundreds of thousands of listings. Simply scanning those for 10 minutes or so provides a primer on the relationship between infectious disease and the "progress of nations" or the viability of societies. When community health is threatened, the nation itself is threatened.
Investigate even briefly the relationship between public health and human progress, and one fact will emerge immediately: humankind's greatest enemy from our earliest days has been disease. War, economic collapse, natural disasters -- none of these can match the devastation wrought by microbes run rampant. Whole clans, tribes, villages, regions, cultures, peoples have been wiped out with incredible "efficiency" by the rapid spread of disease, as well as by the abiding presence of acute and chronic infection coursing endlessly throughout a society. Another fact you'll unearth in your search is that these diseases were not historically (and are not now) usually eliminated by medical science but by changing human behavior and living conditions.
So, disease or infection control is primarily a matter of "public health." Consequently, societies with the resources sufficient to create sound public health systems can survive and thrive. Societies lacking those resources risk catastrophic assaults on health, which can result in their total annihilation.
The bed net, simple as it may seem, is actually a fundamental public health tool for many millions of people in areas where disease-bearing insects transmit malaria and other infections. But the nets alone are not sufficient against this overwhelming health challenge. Parents and communities must be educated on their necessity and proper use. The prescription is bed nets in the hands of health care workers (often volunteers) who, in many parts of Africa, Asia and elsewhere, enable communities to improve their health in a dramatic way, thus enabling those communities (and by extension the entire nation) to develop and grow culturally, economically, educationally, etc.
So when you and I contribute to a mosquito bed net program, we are doing much, much more than preventing the suffering of children, we are helping to create a critical health care "system" that can and will dramatically change for the better the living conditions of countless millions of people. Such help doesn't simply preserve one individual. It actually helps preserve whole societies.
For more information on malaria, its prevention, and how you can help, start with a visit to www.odysseynetworks.org.