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

EPW published r.i.c.e. paper on fuel use in rural north India!

Survey evidence from rural North India showing persistent solid fuel use despite increases in liquefied petroleum gas ownership is presented. Although three-quarters of survey households in these states had LPG, almost all also had a stove that uses solid fuels. Among those owning both, almost three-quarters used solid fuels the day before the survey. Household economic status, relative costs of cooking fuels, gender inequality, and beliefs about solid fuels were important contributors to high solid fuel use. To realise the full health benefits of the LPG expansion, attention must now be turned towards encouraging exclusive LPG use.

Get the paper here!

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Where India Goes named among best non-fiction books of the decade by The Hindu

Diane and Dean’s book Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development and the Costs of Caste has been named among the best non-fiction books the decade by The Hindu.

Reviewing for The Hindu, Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta observes, “This is a deeply researched and thoughtfully written book about open defecation, the role of caste, and the challenges of implementing policy interventions at this scale. Beyond these questions, it also reflects on the difficult road of development beyond conference platitudes and technocratic solutions. It points to the need for better exchanges between policymakers, development professionals and researchers if we are to reflect and act on some of the important questions of our times: Can economic development ever be sufficient without a focus on human development as well? Are there better ways to spur development among less served sections of the world’s population? With all the constraints, how can we do better for our poorer populations?”

This book is available on amazon and flipkart

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Measuring open defecation in India using survey questions: evidence from a randomized survey experiment published in BMJ Open

BMJ Open published “Measuring open defecation in India using survey questions: evidence from a randomized survey experiment”  co-authored by  Sangita, Nikhil, Dean and Diane (with Divya Mary, Neeta Goel, Sujatha Srinivasan, Ajaykumar Tannirkulam and Radu Ban).

Reducing open defecation in India is essential to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, and exposure to open defecation has consequences for child mortality and development, it is essential to accurately monitor its progress.

Open Defecation is an individual behaviour, consequently,  an individual-level survey question may be able to more accurately measure it compared with a household-level question, particularly among households with latrines. This study presents results from an experimental investigation of this hypothesis in rural India. The objective of the experiment was to investigate whether a balanced question about latrine use or open defecation for every member of a household finds different levels of open defecation compared with a household-level question.

The study shows that reported open defecation among all households is 20-21 percentage points higher in individual-level questions compared to the house-hold level questions.  Moreover, among households that received assistance to construct latrines,

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Alex Tabarrok reviews AIR: Pollution, Climate Change and India’s Choice Between Policy and Pretense

 Alex Tabarrok, a professor of economics at the George Mason University, recently reviewed Dean’s latest book Air: Pollution, Climate Change and India’s Choice Between Policy and Pretence on his blog Marginal Revolution. He lauds Dean’s efforts in ‘accurately explain[g] academic work’ in a manner which can be understood by everyone, and that by combing the core ideas with ‘on-the-ground reporting’ has rendered this book ‘both informative and full of human interest.’ An excerpt from the review:

“One of the things I like about Air is that it is clear that pollution in India is both a market failure and a government failure. The government has been slow to respond to pollution because much of the public remains unaware of pollution’s true cost and much of the true cost is born by children and future people who have no vote. In the meantime, the government enhances rational ignorance by refusing to fund even the most basic equipment to measure where and when pollution ebbs and flows. Instead the government engages in virtue-politics by banning plastic bags and creating odd-even restrictions on driving in Delhi. These activities are pointless, even counter-productive, but they are well publicized and the appearance of doing something matters more than reality.”

You can order the book on Amazon or Flipkart

 

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Dean’s new book ‘AIR’ reviewed in Hindustan Times

Hindustan Times recently published a review of Dean’s new book AIR: Pollution, Climate Change and India’s Choice Between Policy and Pretense by Sudhirendar Sharma.  Some excerpts from the review:

Air provides a nuanced understanding on air pollution and the country’s deep vulnerability to it in an era of impending climate change. Since policymakers have not invested in monitoring pollution and experts have not developed tools to curb it, this book is directed at enlightened voters who are concerned about the health of our society.”

“Through carefully curated data, Spears provides evidence on how exposure to air pollution not only results in babies born with low height but also, shockingly, leads to higher infant mortality rates. While life expectancy has caught up with the developed world, India continues to have one-quarter of the world’s neonatal deaths.”

“Politics is a difficult way to improve policies, the book asserts, but independent citizens can contribute to democratic accountability by influencing politics. Air pollution is too important to ignore and informed citizens need to track it and influence the state to act for the greater good.”

Read the entire review of AIR here

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“Cooking with gas, not wood.” Read Sangita and Aashish’s piece in The Hindu

Sangita and Aashish’s article addresses some popular myths around the use of traditional chulha (earthen/brick stove) and why there is a reluctance to switch over to LPG stoves. This reluctance is observed even when LPG stove protects from several harmful health impacts caused by cooking on traditional chulha using solid fuels.

Based on the findings from a survey of 127 villages across four states-Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, this article highlights a number of policy steps which can provide right incentives and also nudge people’s behaviour in favour of clean fuel use. Broadly, these fall under the following three strategies:

-communicating the harms of solid fuels and the benefits of cleaner fuels

-reducing the cost of LPG cylinder refills in rural areas

– promoting gender equality within households, particularly in cooking and related tasks.

Read the article here 

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