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Tag: health

Upstream watershed condition predicts rural children’s health across 35 developing countries

Diego Herrera, Alicia Ellis, Brendan Fisher, Christopher D. Golden, Kiersten Johnson, Mark Mulligan, Alexander Pfaff, Timothy Treuer, Taylor H. Ricketts
Nature Communications 8:811 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00775-2

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Diarrheal disease (DD) due to contaminated water is a major cause of child mortality globally. Forests and wetlands can provide ecosystem services that help maintain water quality. To understand the connections between land cover and childhood DD, we compiled a database of 293,362 children in 35 countries with information on health, socioeconomic factors, climate, and watershed condition. Using hierarchical models, here we find that higher upstream tree cover is associated with lower probability of DD downstream. This effect is significant for rural households but not for urban households, suggesting differing dependence on watershed conditions. In rural areas, the effect of a 30% increase in upstream tree cover is similar to the effect of improved sanitation, but smaller than the effect of improved water source, wealth or education. We conclude that maintaining natural capital within watersheds can be an important public health investment, especially for populations with low levels of built capital.


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Improving stove evaluation using survey data: who received which intervention matters

Valerie Mueller, Alexander Pfaff, John Peabody, Yaping Liu, Kirk R. Smith
Ecological Economics 93 (2013) 301–312

PDF link iconAs biomass fuel use in developing countries causes substantial harm to health and the environment, efficient stoves are candidates for subsidies to reduce emissions. In evaluating improved stoves’ relative benefits, little attention has been given to who received which stove intervention due to choices that are made by agencies and households. Using Chinese household data, we find that the owners of more efficient stoves (i.e., clean-fuel and improved-biomass stoves, as compared with traditional-biomass and coal stoves) live in less healthy counties and differ, across and within counties, in terms of household characteristics such as various assets. On net, that caused efficient stoves to look worse for health than they actually are.We control for counties and household characteristics in testing stove impacts. Unlike tests that lack controls, our preferred tests with controls suggest health benefits from clean-fuel versus traditional-biomass stoves. Also, they eliminate surprising estimates of health benefits from coal, found without using controls. Our results show the value, for learning, of tracking who gets which intervention.


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Behavior, Environment, and Health in Developing Countries: evaluation and valuation

Subhrendu Pattanayak, Alexander Pfaff
Annual Review of Resource Economics (2009) 1:183–217

PDF link iconWe consider health and environmental quality in developing countries, where limited resources constrain behaviors that combat enormously burdensome health challenges. We focus on four huge challenges that are preventable (i.e., are resolved in rich countries). We distinguish them as special cases in a general model of household behavior, which is critical and depends on risk information. Simply informing households may achieve a lot in the simplest challenge (groundwater arsenic); yet, for the three infectious situations discussed (respiratory, diarrhea, and malaria), community coordination and public provision may also be necessary. More generally, social interactions may justify additional policies. For each situation, we discuss the valuation of private spillovers (i.e., externalities) and evaluation of public policies to reduce environmental risks and spillovers. Finally, we reflect on open questions in our model and knowledge gaps in the empirical literature including the challenges of scaling up and climate change.


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