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

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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Aashish’s research on solid fuel use, gender, and adult respiratory health published in Population & Environment

Population and Environment recently published Aashish’s new research titled “Where there is smoke: Solid Fuel externalities, gender, and adult respiratory health in India.” This paper studies the determination of respiratory health in India using data on lung obstruction from the WHO Survey of Global Ageing and Adult Health (WHO-SAGE 2007–2008).  The main findings of the study are:

-Smokers and members of households that use solid fuels (wood, biomass, coal, or dung) for cooking have a higher lung obstruction.

-Even if a respondent’s household uses clean fuels, their lung obstruction is higher if their neighbor’s use solid fuels.

– The influence of determinants is patterned by gender

Read more and download the paper here

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Promoting the use of simple pit latrines in rural India: Findings from Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka and Odisha

For the past three years, r.i.c.e. has been collaborating with 3ie on supporting projects that are testing different strategies for promoting the use of simple pit latrines in rural India. Four teams, comprised of researchers and implementation agencies, came up with different interventions to promote latrine use in rural India, and tested them in four states. Many of these interventions specifically addressed fears surrounding pit emptying that are rooted in ideas of purity and untouchability. There were engaging demonstrations on showing how long it takes for a soak pit to fill and that decomposed sludge looks and feels just like other kinds of fertilizer. They randomly assigned the interventions to be done in some villages and not others. The findings of these studies are now out. You can read the teams’ reports here: Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Odisha.

Some important lessons we learned from these projects include: – Research shaped around informing policy is challenging, and difficult to do usefully! These projects got started at a time when the SBM became very active in villages throughout India. What this means is that reported open defecation decreased substantially in many of the study areas,...Read More..

Sangita awarded Parker Frisbie Publication Award for her paper on coal and child height.

Sangita is among the two winners of the Parker Frisbie Publications Award for this year.  The award committee had following to say about her paper:

“Her impressive paper, “The child health impacts of coal: evidence from India’s coal expansion,” examines the child health impacts associated with a large coal plant expansion in India. Using a rich collection of space-time matched data sources including India’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the Central Electricity Authority of India’s CO2 Baseline Database for the Indian Power Sector, and satellite data from the Multiangle Imaging SpecroRadiometer, she shows that coal plant exposure at birth predicts decreased height and that the result is likely due to air pollution. The effects, moreover, do not differ by socioeconomic background and are robust to a variety of alternative specifications and explanations. This paper highlights an important health burden to India’s young that could increase unless appropriate policy action is taken to either curtail coal plant expansions, or mitigate emissions from them, because coal plants are projected to continue to expand in India in the near future.”

Congratulations Sangita! r.i.c.e is proud of you.

 

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