research and policy advocacy for health & wellbeing in India.

Sanitation

Exploring the causes and consequences of widespread open defecation in India

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Sanitation

Social Inequality

Understanding how social discrimination impacts child and maternal health in rural India

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Social Inequality

Maternal Health

Exploring challenges and policy responses to adequate nutrition in motherhood to improve child health

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Maternal Health

All of us in evidence-based policy should contemplate Krugman’s column

I’ll paste it below.  The concerns he raises have been at the front of our minds here at r.i.c.e. – alas, we see that “the control of infectious disease” made his list of domains in which policy-making appears disconnected from evidence. Perhaps there is little reason to be surprised at all of this.  Yet, it stands in glaring contrast to the stories we tell ourselves, especially in international development after the evidence revolution.  We write about our policy impact if we are grant recipients, or we request reports if we are donors, and we all convene to talk about it six times a year.  These expenses – and livelihood choices – are surely well-justified if evidence is changing policy to improve or even save lives (even if the effects are uncertain).  But if not, we should think deeply about Krugman’s observations. Krugman highlights one candidate explanation from politics: many political actors reason backwards to their beliefs from their policy convictions, and many of these convictions favor the privileged.  It is not difficult to find cases which are surely just that.  But this cannot be the whole story.  While Krugman focuses on the cases where the evidence is unambiguous, I think...Read More..

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Sangita on CNN-IBN’s show DelhiDemands, discussing sanitation

Our Associate Director Sangita Vyas was a panelist on DelhiDemand's show on Sanitation and waste in Delhi. You can see the show here. In the show, Sangita referred to Dean's work on sanitation and health, and on Jeff Hammer's work in Delhi slums, which shows that people who have flood water enter their houses are more likely to get sick from water-borne diseases....Read More..

Reporting in Hindu, BBC and Scroll on “Under-reporting of violence against women”

1414604509-1125_Proportion-of-cases-which-were-reported-Sexual-Violence-Physical-Violence-chartbuilder--1- (1) Scroll.in did a report on Aashish's paper "Reporting and incidence of violence against women in India". Check out the article here. It says, When thinking of sexual violence, most people imagine the perpetrator a stranger lurking in the dark. In reality, as a new study reasserts, most cases of sexual assault in India are perpetrated by people the women know. In fact, the number of women sexually assaulted by their husbands is 40 times the number of women who suffer such violence from others. The study, by Aashish Gupta of the US-headquartered RICE Institute, cites statistics published by UN Women in 2011, which say that one in every 10 women has suffered sexual assault by their husband and one in three has faced physical violence from the husband or intimate partner. Hindu's Rukimini S, our favorite data journalist, also did a follow-up story. She said, The last NFHS showed that the vast majority of sexual violence reported by women was within the marriage; just 2.3 per cent of rape that women reported to the NFHS interviewers was by men other than the husband, researcher Aashish Gupta found. The BBC, meanwhile, replugged Rukmini's previous story. It said, A new study has...Read More..

Two new (and frightening) articles on anti-biotic resistance (with one of them featuring r.i.c.e. research)

Image Credit: NYT Scroll.in, along with IndiaSpend,  had an article on anti-biotic resistance in India. We quote from the article: With gut bacteria, the chances of that happening may increase when you take antibiotics, because bacteria, like every species, evolve to survive. “The NDM-1 gene has found its way to over 40 species of different bacteria, which is unprecedented in antibiotic resistance,” said Walsh.Given the appalling state of sanitation in India, it is not surprising that the majority of adult Indians carry highly resistant bacteria in their gut. Walsh said his team, in 2013, found that 90% of adults in south Pakistan carried a gene that made common bacteria that live in the intestines of healthy people resistant to potent antibiotics.“We believe the same statistics apply to northern and urban India,” Walsh said. “In contrast, only 10% of adults in the Queens area of New York carry bacteria bearing the same gene.”All these adult Indians could contribute to the evolution of superbugs, if they were to abuse antibiotics. It appears Indians are doing just that. The country is not yet a hotbed of super-resistant pathogens, but if NDM-1 transfers to highly pathogenic bacteria, it could happen very soon.At India’s largest public hospital, the...Read More..

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Two new (and interesting) articles about open defecation in India

image courtesy: forbes. Thorsten Kiefer, founder & CEO of WASH United, has an article in Forbes, called "Why Innovative Campaigning Is Critical To Fixing Sanitation In India". There is a paragraph that I particularly like: Kevin Shane, a colleague from Indian innovation consultancyQuicksand who leads a sanitation innovation project in Bhubaneswar/Orissa, recently told me about a project visit with a delegation from Yale university. Standing outside his house, a community leader directed his American guests to a lush, green field, where he proudly declared: “this is my toilet. I bet your president Obama doesn’t have a toilet as beautiful as mine.” Consultants at Dalberg also have an article on the NextBillion website. They have a conclusion we agree with: Success in curbing open defecation can only be achieved by generating demand for toilets through a consistent focus on behavior change. Infrastructure-focused programs are by themselves inadequate in solving the problem of open defecation. The Indian government needs to remember this lesson as it embarks on an ambitious path to provide a toilet to every household....Read More..

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Business Standard has Lunch with Dean

1420217705-098 Without saying much, I'll post the full interview here.  Its available online on the Business Standard website here. -- Rural India is a dismal outlier when it comes to open defecation and that's a major reason for its stunted, unhealthy children, the Princeton economist tells Kanika Datta It never occurs to Dean Spears that an invitation to Lunch with BS might be an opportunity to indulge in even the mildest of hedonism. Since the meal is on Business Standard, many of our guests understandably choose upscale restaurants. Spears' first suggestion for our meeting was the canteen at Delhi School of Economics where his wife, Diane Coffey, co-founder of Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (Rice), was making a presentation. Too noisy, I say, so he innocently suggests we could carry the food into the visitors' room, a solution I reject out of hand. His next choice is a shade more ritzy: Evergreen Restaurant in Green Park, famous in the area for its vegetarian snacks and sweets. Rice is a three-year-old policy and advocacy group focusing on child and maternal health in India and it's already making an impact. It was founded with funding from the Gates Foundation and, recently, the National Institutes of Health, an agency of...Read More..

Merry Good Governance Day and happy Christmas!

DSC01247 For those of you haven’t been paying attention to the uproar in India over whether school kids get Christmas off this year, we have one more thing to rejoice today: India’s “commitment towards providing transparent, effective and accountable governance to the people of this country.” Since today is a day to celebrate governance, I thought I would share a relevant story with you from my recent trip to Sitapur. I spent much of the trip in villages talking to people about pit cleaning, and in the process Nikhil and I ran into a household that uses a dry latrine. Now, it’s no secret that manual scavenging still exists in India. Despite the passage of The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines Prohibition Act in 1993, the 2011 Census recorded almost 8 lakh dry latrines that are cleaned out by people. After over 20 years since the prohibition of manual scavenging, this degrading and inhumane practice still persists. What was surprising about this particular family was that the head of the household is an anganwadi worker. So, what’s new? Government employees break the law all the time. But, she thought that we were also from the government, and...Read More..