News and Announcements

  • New York Magazine on IPA's SMS reminders for malaria meds study

    New York Magazine’s Science of Us column features IPA’s new evaluation of text message reminders for malaria patients in Ghana. The piece highlights one of the interesting parts of the study, helping people to stick to intentions when it comes to health behavior, a notoriously difficult problem in public health. You can read the piece on New York Magazine's site here, see the announcement on IPA's site here, and find a summary of the full study here.
  • Dean Karlan looks at the future of financial inclusion in the Stanford Social Innovation Review

    IPA founder Dean Karlan has a feature article in the fall issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, assessing where we’ve come in financial inclusion, and looking in particular at the role of non-profits versus the private sector.  As he says:
    The time has come, in short, to take stock of the broad movement to expand access to financial services among the poor. What’s next for that movement—the movement for financial inclusion? Where should donors and NGOs who care about financial inclusion now turn their attention?
    You can read the full article here, and also find his previous piece on the SSIR blog, with Mary Kay Gugerty, Measuring Impact Isn’t for Everyone.
  • New study shows text messaging could be useful tool in fight against malaria

    Oct 28/14 | Announcement | 
    New study shows text messaging could be useful tool in fight against malaria
    New Haven, CT,  Oct. 28 2014 – Each year, malaria kills over 600,000 people, more than half of them children. In a study published today in PLOS ONE (summary here and full study here), researchers with the non-profit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and Harvard University found that simple text message reminders to take malaria medication can help in the fight against the disease by boosting the rates at which patients complete their medication regimen.
    One challenge in fighting malaria is that the disease has evolved resistance to many drugs that formerly worked, according to Julia Raifman, a Ph.D. candidate in the Harvard School of Public Health, who co-authored the study. Only one class of drugs, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) remains effective and available. “When patients don’t complete their full medication regimen, diseases can develop resistance to treatment. And with infectious diseases like malaria, drug resistant diseases can spread to others” Raifman said. “Even in the United States, studies show that about half of people don’t adhere to their medications—it’s easy to forget, or to think you’ve beaten the disease because you feel better. We’ve already begun to see resistance to artemisinin in Southeast Asia. It would be catastrophic if that became widespread and there was no effective treatment for the most deadly form of malaria,” she added.
    The researchers, working with IPA’s research staff in Ghana, drew on previous research using SMS reminders in situations where people fail to follow through on intentions, such as saving money, paying back loans, or completing college financial aid forms. The research staff in Ghana recruited more than 1,100 people outside pharmacies and healthcare facilities, who then used their mobile phones to enroll in an automated system. The system randomly assigned half to receive the text message reminders to take their medication at the 12 hour intervals corresponding to when the pills were to be taken. The local staff followed up with the participants several days later at their homes to check how many pills they had taken. Study authors Raifman, Heather Lanthorn, Slawa Rokicki, and Günther Fink found that those who received the texts were significantly more likely to finish the full regimen.
    The study also tested whether a short versus longer, more informative message would be more effective and found unexpectedly that the shorter messages had a significant impact, but the longer ones did not. “SMS reminders are a ‘nudge,’ not a ‘shove’ ” said Aaron Dibner-Dunlap, an Innovations for Poverty Action researcher who studies text message reminders. “They can help people follow through on something they originally intended to do, but human nature is tricky and the science is still young. We're optimistic because the technology has become so widespread and inexpensive to administer, that for programs like this one that work, there’s huge potential for helping people at very low cost.”
    The study was implemented by IPA in Ghana, with researchers Julia RG Raifman and Heather Lanthorn, both doctoral candidates at Harvard’s School of Public Health, Slawa Rokicki, doctoral candidate at  Harvard’s Department of Health Policy, and Günther Fink, Associate Professor of International Health Economics at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
    More information about the study is available at (
    Additional information:
    Malaria is one of the leading causes of death for children under five worldwide.
    Of malaria deaths, 92 percent occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa, where Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent form of the malaria parasite, is most common.
    This study took place in and around Tamale, the capital of Ghana’s Northern Region.
    Ghana was a pilot country for the Global Fund’s Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria (AMFm), which aimed to expand access to ACTs by highly subsidizing their cost. National health insurance allows members to receive the medications free of charge.
    Jeff Mosenkis, Innovations for Poverty Action ( 203-672-9552 )
    Julia RG Raifman, Harvard School of Public Health (jrgoldbe at
    About Innovations for Poverty Action:
    Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) discovers and promotes effective solutions to global poverty problems. IPA designs, rigorously evaluates, and refines these solutions and their applications together with decisionmakers to ensure that the evidence created is used to improve opportunities for the world’s poor. In the ten years since its founding IPA has worked with over 250 leading academics to conduct over 400 evaluations in 51 countries. More information is available at
  • IPA youth savings research in The Monitor

    Oct 22/14 | From the newsroom | 

    IPA's research in Uganda on encouraging youth savings for educational expenses through a school based program was featured in that country's Daily Monitor. Researcher Oliver Schmidt points to qualitative findings showing that education expenses are a primary reason named for taking out loans, and the research by Dean Karlan and Leigh Linden finding one variation of a combination of programs involving parent outreach and flexible savings commitments, which increased school supply purchases for kids and subsequent test scores. The full story is here, and Beniamino Savonitto and Pooja Wagh of IPA's Global Financial Inclusion Initiative expanded with a blog post addressing the broader issue, available here.
  • Small and medium enterprise training for growth in The Broker

    Oct 06/14 | From the newsroom | 

    Ariela Alpert, Sarah Craig, and Lucia Sanchez, of IPA's Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Initiative, have an article in The Broker, explaining a conundrum in the field - while training seems to help small businesses in the developing world grow, the research shows classroom management training consistently disappointing in effectiveness. They review what’s known to date in the article here, and more on the initiative’s work to find out how to grow small and medium-sized enterprises in the developing work is on their page, here.

  • Gawker on cash transfers and IPA results

    Oct 01/14 | From the newsroom | 

    Gawker's Hamilton Nolan writes "Poor people do not just blow any money they get."  He reviews IPA's evaluation of GiveDirectly (here, and more description here), finding that poor Kenyans used unconditional cash transfers effectively, rather than on temptation goods like alchohol. A discussion of the broader implications in the New York Times by IPA researcher Chris Blattman of Columbia University is here.
  • DevEx on development exectives, RCTs and local involvment

    Sep 30/14 | From the newsroom | DevEx

    The development community website DevEx has two articles related to IPA, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and a recent survey of development executives. An article here explains their findings on awareness and attitudes towards RCTs, including a concise summary of advantages and limitations of the method, and how they have been used in deworming policy and implementation. This article discusses attitudes among executives towards practicing development at the local versus institutional levels, with IPA's Philippines office director Nassreena Sampaco-Baddiri discussing how the two perspectives are complimentary in IPA's work.

  • ACT Health in Uganda's Daily Monitor

    Sep 22/14 | From the newsroom | 

    In Uganda Accountability Can Transform Health (ACT) project, which involves local citizens to monitor health providers is the subject of an IPA evaluation and was featured in the Daily Monitor. The piece reported on the launch event at which IPA’s local staff spoke. The full article is here (PDF).

  • The Economist on commitment savings for the poor

    Sep 22/14 | From the newsroom | The Economist
    The Economist reviews a number of IPA projects on savings products for the poor, particularly commitment savings, which allow users to put away money where they can't access it until a predetermined time or goal is achieved. The article mentions a number of variations IPA has evaluated, from the Philippines, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya and Rome. The full article is here (may be gated) and an overview of how commitment savings works and IPA's plans for scaling it up are here.
  • What should healthcare cost?

    Sep 17/14 | From the newsroom | The Tennessean
    Should people in difficult financial circumstances still pay for health care? Reporter Shelly DuBois discusses how healthcare providers handle patients who can't pay, drawing on IPA findings from our research in Kenya and elsewhere. The story is here, and for more, a review of the evidence by IPA researcher Pascaline Dupas of Stanford University is in Science.
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