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In Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Francophone West African poor.

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Brief
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April 24, 2017
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its first quarter bulletin of 2017. This bulletin highlights our research projects on the impact of teaching girls negotiation skills and the challenges of water provision, including policy dissemination events co-hosted with the International Growth Centre on results from these two studies. This bulletin also features our project on maternal mortality risk and the gender gap in desired fertility.

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Brief
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April 18, 2017
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Distributing subsidized health products through existing health infrastructure could substantially and cost-effectively improve health in sub-Saharan Africa. There is, however, widespread concern that poor governance – in particular, limited health worker accountability – seriously undermines the effectiveness of subsidy programs. We audit targeted bednet distribution programs to quantify the extent of agency problems. We find that around 80% of the eligible receive the subsidy as intended, and up to 15% of subsidies are leaked to ineligible people. Supplementing the program with simple financial or monitoring incentives for health workers does not improve performance further and is thus not cost-effective in this context.

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Working Paper
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January 16, 2017
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Objectives. To evaluate whether text-messaging programs can improve reproductive health among adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries.

Methods. We conducted a cluster–randomized controlled trial among 756 female students aged 14 to 24 years in Accra, Ghana, in 2014. We randomized 38 schools to unidirectional intervention (n = 12), interactive intervention (n = 12), and control (n = 14). The unidirectional intervention sent participants text messages with reproductive health information. The interactive intervention engaged adolescents in text-messaging reproductive health quizzes. The primary study outcome was reproductive health knowledge at 3 and 15 months. Additional outcomes included self-reported pregnancy and sexual behavior. Analysis was by intent-to-treat.

Results. From baseline to 3 months, the unidirectional intervention increased knowledge by 11 percentage points (95% confidence interval [CI] = 7, 15) and the interactive intervention by 24 percentage points (95% CI = 19, 28), from a control baseline of 26%. Although we found no changes in reproductive health outcomes overall, both unidirectional (odds ratio [OR] = 0.14; 95% CI = 0.03, 0.71) and interactive interventions (OR = 0.15; 95% CI = 0.03, 0.86) lowered odds of self-reported pregnancy for sexually active participants.

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Published Paper
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December 20, 2016
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share with you its final bulletin of the year: "2016 in Review." This bulletin highlights ten of IPA Zambia's research projects, including updates from projects included in the previous bulletin as well as new contributions. We hope you enjoy this look at the high-quality evidence we've generated this past year, and we look forward to continuing this work with you in the year ahead.

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December 13, 2016
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The “community-based development” approach may empower citizens and improve outcomes through three mechanisms: (1) an immediate direct effect of engaging citizens to decide how to allocate resources within the community-based development program, (2) an indirect effect on community organization that improves citizen engagement with other local institutions, and (3) an indirect effect on community organization that improves representation within centralized government structures. Using a randomized evaluation of a nongovernmental-organization-led CBD program in Ghana, we examine whether community-based development results in citizens’ empowerment to improve their socioeconomic well-being through these mechanisms. We find that the leadership training and experiences associated with community-based development translate into higher perceived quality of village leaders, but they simultaneously decrease contributions to collective projects outside the context of the community-based development program. In addition, although the process encourages more people to run for district-level office and results in more professional political representation, it does not increase aggregate levels of government investment in communities. Ultimately, we find that although the program led to changes in village-level and district-level leadership, it did not increase investment in public goods and did not improve socio-economic outcomes.

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Working Paper
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October 03, 2016

Despite poverty and limited access to health care, evidence is growing that patients in low-income countries are taking a more active role in their selection of health care providers. Urban areas such as Nairobi, Kenya offer a rich context for studying these “active” patients because of the large number of heterogeneous providers available. We use a unique panel dataset from 2015 in which 402 pregnant women from peri-urban (the “slums” of) Nai- robi, Kenya were interviewed three times over the course of their pregnancy and delivery, allowing us to follow women's care decisions and their perceptions of the quality of care they received. We define active antenatal care (ANC) patients as those women who switch ANC providers and explore the prevalence, characteristics and care- seeking behavior of these patients. We analyze whether active ANC patients appear to be seeking out higher qual- ity facilities and whether they are more satisfied with their care. Women in our sample visit over 150 different public and private ANC facilities. Active patients are more educated and more likely to have high risk pregnancies, but have otherwise similar characteristics to non-active patients. We find that active patients are increasingly likely to pay for private care (despite public care being free) and to receive a higher quality of care over the course of their pregnancy. We find that active patients appear more satisfied with their care over the course of pregnan- cy, as they are increasingly likely to choose to deliver at the facility providing their ANC. 

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Published Paper
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September 19, 2016
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Background: The recent global climate agreement in Paris aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while fostering sustainable development, and establishes an international trading mechanism to meet this goal. Currently, carbon offset program implementers are allowed to collect their own monitoring data to determine the number of carbon credits to be awarded.

Objectives: We summarize reasons for mandating independent monitoring of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. In support of our policy recommendations, we describe a case study of a program designed to earn carbon credits by distributing almost one million drinking water filters in rural Kenya to avert the use of fuel for boiling water. We compare results from an assessment conducted by our research team in the program area among households with pregnant women or caregivers in rural villages with low piped water access with the reported program monitoring data and discuss the implications.

Discussion: Our assessment in Kenya found lower household water filter usage levels than the internal program monitoring reported estimates used to determine carbon credits; we found 19% (N=4041) of households reported filter usage 2-3 years after filter distribution compared to the program stated usage rate of 81% (N=14988) 2.7 years after filter distribution. Although carbon financing could be a financially sustainable approach to scale up water treatment and improve health in low-income settings, these results suggest program effectiveness will remain uncertain in the absence of requiring monitoring data be collected by third-party organizations.

Conclusion: Independent monitoring should be a key requirement for carbon credit verification in future international carbon trading mechanisms to ensure programs achieve benefits in line with sustainable development goals.

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Published Paper
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September 16, 2016
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Systematic reviews of existing evidence show promising effects of community health worker (CHW) programs as a strategy to improve child survival, but also highlight challenges faced by CHW programs, including insufficient incentives to deliver timely and appropriate services. We assessed the effect of an incentivized community health delivery program in Uganda on all-cause under-five mortality. A cluster-randomized controlled trial, embedded within the scale-up of a new community health delivery program, was undertaken in 214 clusters in 10 districts in Uganda. In the intervention clusters micro entrepreneur-based community health promoters (CHPs) were deployed over a three-year period (2011-2013). On average 38 households were surveyed in each cluster at the end of 2013, for a total sample size of 8,119 households. The primary study outcome was all-cause under-five mortality (U5MR). U5MR was reduced by 27% (adjusted RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.58-0.93).

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Working Paper
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September 01, 2016
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I investigate whether a school-based deworming intervention in Kenya had long-term effects on young children in the region. I exploit positive externalities from the program to estimate impacts on younger children who were not directly treated. Ten years after the intervention, I find large cognitive effects—comparable to between 0.5 and 0.8 years of schooling—for children who were less than one year old when their communities received mass deworming treatment. I find no effect on child height or stunting. Because treatment was administered through schools, I also estimate effects among children whose older siblings received treatment directly; in this subpopulation, effects on cognition are nearly twice as large.

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Working Paper
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July 27, 2016
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Women who received private access to vouchers for contraceptives were more likely to take up and use contraception, compared to women whose husbands were involved in the voucher program. In contexts in which women have less bargaining power in family planning decisions, providing private access to contraceptives may be an important and effective means of enabling women to achieve their fertility goals.

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July 25, 2016
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State capacity to provide public services depends on the motivation of the agents recruited to deliver them. We design an experiment to quantify the effect of agent selection on service effectiveness. The experiment, embedded in a nationwide recruitment drive for a new government health position in Zambia, shows that agents attracted to a civil service career have more skills and ambition than those attracted to “doing good”. Data from a mobile platform, administrative records, and household surveys show that they deliver more services, change health practices, and produce better health outcomes in the communities they serve.

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Working Paper
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July 05, 2016
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This study estimates long-run impacts of a child health investment, exploiting community-wide experimental variation in school-based deworming. The program increased labor supply among men and education among women, with accompanying shifts in labor market specialization. Ten years after deworming treatment, men who were eligible as boys stay enrolled for more years of primary school, work 17% more hours each week, spend more time in non-agricultural self-employment, are more likely to hold manufacturing jobs, and miss one fewer meal per week. Women who were in treatment schools as girls are approximately one quarter more likely to have attended secondary school, halving the gender gap. They reallocate time from traditional agriculture into cash crops and non-agricultural self-employment. We estimate a conservative annualized financial internal rate of return to deworming of 32%, and show that mass deworming may generate more in future government revenue than it costs in subsidies.

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Working Paper
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July 01, 2016
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We study how healthcare subsidies and improved information affect over- and under-use of primary healthcare in a randomized control trial of 1544 children in Mali. In a dynamic model of healthcare demand, misuse relative to policymaker preferences (here given by WHO care-seeking standards) arises from seeking care too early or too late during an illness spell. Using nine weeks of daily data, we show that the barrier to optimal care seeking is cost, not information: subsidies increase demand by over 250%, but overuse is rare with or without the subsidy. Information, contrary to intent, appears to increase underuse, as our model predicts.

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Working Paper
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June 01, 2016
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In a field experiment in Uganda, we find that demand after a free distribution of three health products is lower than after a sale distribution. This contrasts with work on insecticide-treated bed nets, highlighting the importance of product characteristics in determining pricing policy. We put forward a model to illustrate the potential tension between two important factors, learning and anchoring, and then test this model with three products selected specifically for their variation in the scope for learning. We find the rank order of shifts in demand matches with the theoretical prediction, although the differences are not statistically significant.

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Working Paper
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June 01, 2016

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