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

Environment

Understanding the health consequences of climate change and air pollution, and exploring policy responses.

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Environment

A Small Tribute to Uwe Reinhardt

I was greatly saddened to hear about Uwe Reinhardt’s passing on Monday, November 13, 2017.  For those who may not be familiar with him, Uwe was the James Madison Professor of Political Economy and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  To say the least, he was a well-known health economist who — for decades — was active in health care policy in the U.S. and abroad (e.g., Uwe and his wife, May, helped to advise the Taiwanese government for at least 10 years).  If you search “Uwe Reinhardt” on the internet, you will find innumerable articles remembering and honoring Uwe.

I wanted to share a personal note about Uwe.  Between 2011 and 2014, I had the good fortune of being Uwe’s Teaching Assistant on several occasions, and out of his great compassion, Uwe agreed to be on my dissertation committee.  Some of the student offices (where Mike Geruso, John Papp, Dean Spears, and I sat for a few years) were located across the hall from Uwe’s office.  To all who are thinking about graduate school, I sincerely hope that you will find a mentor like Uwe,

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On drones and defecation

Hat tip to r.i.c.e. board member Avinash Kishore for noticing this article in the Hindustan Times: “In Telangana’s Karimnagar, police deploy drone to stop open defecation.”

Two quotations from the article:

“Ironically, almost all the houses in these colonies have toilets. ‘Yet, people were habituated to come out early in the morning for open defecation, despite the hectic campaign about Swachh Bharat in the last two years. So, we thought we could shame them by exposing them through drone camera,’ the commissioner said.”

“The police want to continue the drone surveillance on the banks of the lake after checking the open defecation. ‘We are now focusing on pig-rearers who bring their animals to the reservoir bank and make the waters dirty,’ the police commissioner added.”

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Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma reviewed Where India Goes in today’s Hindustan Times

You can read the whole review at this link.  Here is a quotation:

“Researchers Diane Coffey and Dean Spears have written a book that is important, timely, and easy to read. It argues that caste is the biggest stumbling block to overcoming open defecation. Drawing heavily on field studies and data analysis, the authors contend that the power of the state over open defecation is limited because it not only lacks the human resources needed for behavioural change but also because the social forces against it are strong.”

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Bezwada Wilson on caste, manual scavenging, and the Swachh Bharat Mission

If there is one thing you will read today, let it be this interview of Bezwada Wilson by Vidya Subrahmaniam of The Hindu Center in The Wire. Bezwada Wilson and Vidya Subrahmaniam  discuss some of rice’s sanitation research, but more importantly, Bezwada Wilson describes the changes he would have liked to see before, or along with the government’s ‘cleaning frenzy’ and ‘toilet construction spree’, as well as the non-implementation of the ‘Prohibition Of Employment As Manual Scavengers And Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013’.

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New open access paper with Aashish Gupta in JEEM

My paper with Aashish, “Health externalities of India’s expansion of coal plants: Evidence from a national panel of 40,000 households,” is now available open access at JEEM at this link.  Here’s the abstract:

Coal power generation is expanding rapidly in India and other developing countries. In addition to consequences for climate change, present-day health externalities may also substantially increase the social cost of coal. Health consequences of air pollution have proven important in studies of developed countries, but, despite clear importance, similarly well-identified estimates are less available for developing countries, and no estimates exist for the important case of coal in India. We exploit panel data on Indian households, matched to local changes in exposure to coal plants. Increased exposure to coal plants is associated with worse respiratory health. Consistent with a causal mechanism, the effect is specific: no effect is seen on diarrhea or fever, and no effect on respiratory health is seen of new non-coal plants. Our result is not due to endogenous avoidance behavior, or to differential trends in determinants of respiratory health, either before the period studied or simultaneously.

You should also check out Kelsey Jack’s overview paper in the same issue on “

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Upcoming book discussion at IIT Delhi!

If you are in Delhi on Oct 25th, please mark your calendars for a book discussion of Where India Goes with IIT Delhi’s Ambedkar Study Circle at 2:30pm in LH 308.  Dean and I are really looking forward to it!

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An Insightful Article on SBM by Manini Chatterjee in The Telegraph

We wanted to share this interesting article by Manini Chatterjee that came out in The Telegraph today.  Manini has talked about how the SBM fails to address the root causes of poor sanitation in India. SBM, as a sanitation campaign, has remained silent on the issue of manual scavenging, and has so far failed to address the links between caste and waste disposal.

She quotes Bezwada Wilson  (National convener of Safai Karamchari Andolan) to show how the campaign has failed to solve the bigger challenges that the sanitation problem in India faces at present- “there is an inexorable link between occupation and caste; the occupation of manual scavenging is linked with caste. We have to break the link between caste and occupation before we set out to achieve Swachh Bharat.”  She also questions the SBM’s focus on building toilets without having to say anything about improving the plight of people who do the cleaning jobs.

r.i.c.e. research has found that beliefs, values, and norms about purity and pollution contribute to the ubiquity and social acceptance of open defecation in India. In India, dealing with pit emptying has been linked to a job that lower caste people do.

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