The first 1,000 days of life comprise a critical period of physical and cognitive development. Children who experience normal physical growth and development in this period do better in school, and as adults, earn about 20 percent more in their jobs and are 10 percent more likely to own their own businesses.1 On the other hand, inadequate nutrition during this period can cause stunting and contribute to long-term developmental consequences that affect future productivity and well- being.
In this brief, Innovations for Poverty Action has complied evidence from randomized evaluations of programs that aim to support a child’s first 1,000 days, in addition to evidence from academic reviews of high-quality trials in maternal and child health and early childhood development.
While all the interventions in this brief have been rigorously tested, sometimes solutions that work in one context may not work as well in another. In addition, while many of these interventions have been demonstrated to improve child health and development in trial settings, delivery (especially to remote populations) at scale will be more challenging. Careful monitoring and evaluation as these programs are adapted to a new context will help stakeholders understand whether programs produce the intended results.
Background: Helminth and protozoan infections affect >1 billion children globally. Improved water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition could be more sustainable control strategies for parasite infections than mass drug administration (MDA), while providing other quality of life benefits. Methods and Findings: We enrolled geographic clusters of pregnant women into a cluster-randomized controlled trial that tested six interventions: disinfecting drinking water(W), improved sanitation(S), handwashing with soap(H), combined WSH, improved nutrition(N), and combined WSHN. We assessed intervention effects on parasite infections by measuring Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, hookworm, and Giardia duodenalis among individual children born to enrolled mothers and their older siblings (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01704105). We collected stool specimens from 9077 total children in 622 clusters, including 2346 children in control, 1117 in water, 1160 in sanitation, 1141 in handwashing, 1064 in WSH, 1072 in nutrition, and 1177 in WSHN. In the control group, 23% of children were infected with Ascaris lumbricoides, 1% with Trichuris trichuria, 2% with hookworm and 39% with Giardia duodenalis. After two years of intervention exposure, Ascaris infection prevalence was 18% lower in the water treatment arm (95% confidence interval (CI) 0%, 33%), 22% lower in the WSH arm (CI 4%, 37%), and 22% lower in the WSHN arm (CI 4%, 36%) compared to control. Individual sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition did not significantly reduce Ascaris infection on their own, and integrating nutrition with WSH did not provide additional benefit. Trichuris and hookworm were rarely detected, resulting in imprecise effect estimates. No intervention reduced Giardia. Reanalysis of stool samples by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) confirmed the reductions in Ascaris infections measured by microscopy in the WSH and WSHN groups. Lab technicians and data analysts were blinded to treatment assignment, but participants and sample collectors were not blinded. The trial was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. Conclusions: Our results suggest integration of improved water quality, sanitation, and handwashing could contribute to sustainable control strategies for Ascaris infections, particularly in similar settings with recent or ongoing deworming programs. Water treatment alone was similarly effective to integrated WSH, providing new evidence that drinking water should be given increased attention as a transmission pathway for Ascaris. Clinical trial registration ID #NCT01704105.
In Rwanda, 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 Rwandan poor.
How do standard development programs compare to just giving people cash? In Rwanda, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to shed light on this question. Villages were randomly assigned to one of four groups: they received either a USAID-funded, integrated WASH and nutrition program (with savings and asset transfer components), unconditional cash grants of equal cost to the donor, a larger cash transfer, or no program at the time of study. The transfers were funded by USAID and Google.org.
The evaluation measured impacts on five main health and economic outcomes: household dietary diversity, maternal and child anemia, child growth (height-for-age, weight-for-age, and mid-upper arm circumference), household wealth, and household consumption, as well as other secondary outcomes, such as savings.
After approximately one year:
» The integrated nutrition and WASH program had a positive impact on savings, a secondary outcome, among the eligible population, but did not impact any primary outcomes (household dietary diversity, maternal or child anemia, child growth, household consumption, or wealth) within the period of the study.
» An equivalent amount of cash (a cost to USAID of $142 per household) allowed households to pay down debt and boosted productive and consumption assets, but did not impact child health outcomes.
» A much larger cash transfer—of more than $500 per household—had a wide range of benefits: it not only increased consumption, savings, assets, and house values,but improved household dietary diversity and height-for-age, and decreased child mortality.
» The results suggest that, over the time period of the study, targeted programs focused on changing specific outcomes may be able to do so at lower cost than cash, but that large investments of cash can more rapidly affect some leading indicators of malnutrition.
» The results also suggest that large cash transfers impact not only the economic measures of consumption and wealth, but also dietary diversity, height-for-age, and child mortality, while small transfers appear to have more limited benefits.
Maternal mortality remains very high in many parts of the developing world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Limited awareness of risk factors for maternal mortality such as maternal age and birth spacing may contribute to persistently high death rates, and public health campaigns to increase awareness of risk factors could help curb maternal mortality. Research shows that men, in particular, tend to underestimate maternal mortality risk, which may lead to their lower demand for contraception. Researchers worked in close collaboration with Zambia’s Ministry of Health and local NGOs to evaluate the impact of providing information to men and women about maternal mortality risk on knowledge of risk, demand for family planning, and maternal and child health outcomes. Preliminary results indicate that providing husbands with the information led to a reduction in fertility in the year that followed, while providing information to women had no comparable impact.
Although abortion is now legal in Kenya under expanded circumstances, access is limited and many providers and individuals still believe it is illegal. This study aimed to characterise Kenyan women’s perceptions and experiences with abortion and post-abortion care (PAC) services in Nairobi regarding barriers to care, beliefs about abortion, and perceived stigma. We conducted 15 semi-structured in-depth interviews with Kenyan women aged 18–24 years who recently received abortion and PAC services at four Marie Stopes Kenya clinic sites in Nairobi. The most significant psychosocial barrier respondents faced in promptly seeking abortion and PAC was perceived stigma. In response to stigma, participants developed a sense of agency and self-reliance, which allowed them to prioritise their own healthcare needs over the concerns of others. To adequately address perceived stigma as a barrier to abortion- and PAC-seeking, significant cultural norm shifting is required.
- Simple growth charts, which allowed parents to see if their child had a normal height for their age, did not reduce reduce growth deficits on average among the 547 children in the study, but among malnourished children, reduced stunting by 22 percentage points.
- In contrast, inviting caregivers to quarterly meetings to learn if their children had a normal height and weight and providing food supplements to malnourished children had no impact on rates of stunting.
- Neither home-based growth charts nor community-based monitoring were found to impact children’s cognitive development.
- Home-based growth charts appear to be a cost-effective tool to reduce physical growth deficits in this context. For every dollar that was invested in growth charts, children who otherwise would have been stunted gained an estimated $16 in additional lifetime wages.
We present the results of a study designed to ‘benchmark’ a major USAID-funded child malnutrition program against what would have occurred if the cost of the program had simply been disbursed directly to beneficiaries to spend as they see fit. Using a three-armed trial from 248 villages in Rwanda, the study measures impacts on households containing poor or underweight children, or pregnant or lactating women, as well as the broader population of study villages. We find that the bundled health program delivers benefits in an outcome directly targeted by specific sub-components of the intervention (savings), but does not improve household dietary diversity, child anthropometrics, or anemia within the year of the study. A cost-equivalent cash transfer boosts productive asset investment and allows households to pay down debt. The bundled program is significantly better in cost-equivalent terms at generating savings and worse for debt reduction, while cost-equivalent cash drives more asset investment. A much larger cash transfer of more than $500 per household improves a wide range of consumption measures including dietary diversity, as well as savings, assets, and housing values. Only the large cash transfer shows evidence of moving child outcomes, with significant but modest improvements in child height-for-age, weight-for-age, and mid upper-arm circumference (about 0.1 SD). The results indicate that programs targeted towards driving specific outcomes can do so at lower cost than cash, but large cash transfers drive substantial benefits across a wide range of impacts, including many of those targeted by the more tailored program.
This document provides a brief overview of the policies and best practices for ensuring the safe and ethical conduct of violence research at IPA. It also articulates the specific roles and responsibilities of IPA and its academic partners with respect to violence research. It is intended for principal investigators and research staff at IPA who are already familiar with the ethics of human subjects research, but are interested in more specific guidance related to the collection of violence data.
Background Poor nutrition and infectious diseases can prevent children from reaching their developmental potential. We aimed to assess the effects of improvements in water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition on early child development in rural Kenya.
Methods In this cluster-randomised controlled trial, we enrolled pregnant women in their second or third trimester from three counties (Kakamega, Bungoma, and Vihiga) in Kenya’s western region, with an average of 12 households per cluster. Groups of nine geographically adjacent clusters were block-randomised, using a random number generator, into the six intervention groups (including monthly visits to promote target behaviours), a passive control group (no visits), or a double-sized active control group (monthly household visits to measure child mid-upper arm circumference). The six intervention groups were: chlorinated drinking water; improved sanitation; handwashing with soap; combined water, sanitation, and handwashing; improved nutrition through counselling and provision of lipid-based nutrient supplements; and combined water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition. Here we report on the prespecified secondary child development outcomes: gross motor milestone achievement assessed with the WHO module at year 1, and communication, gross motor, personal social, and combined scores measured by the Extended Ages and Stages Questionnaire (EASQ) at year 2. Masking of participants was not possible, but data assessors were masked. Analyses were by intention to treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01704105.
Findings Between Nov 27, 2012, and May 21, 2014, 8246 women residing in 702 clusters were enrolled. No clusters were lost to follow-up, but 2212 households with 2279 children were lost to follow-up by year 2. 5791 (69%) children were measured at year 1 and 6107 (73%) at year 2. At year 1, compared with the active control group, the combined water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition group had greater rates of attaining the standing with assistance milestone (hazard ratio 1·23, 95% CI 1·09–1·40) and the walking with assistance milestone (1·32, 1·17–1·50), and the handwashing group had a greater rate of attaining the standing alone milestone (1·15, 1·01–1·31). There were no differences when comparing the other intervention groups with the active control group on any of the motor milestone measures at year 1. At year 2, there were no differences among groups for the communication, gross motor, personal social, or combined EASQ scores.
Interpretation The handwashing and combined water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition interventions might have improved child motor development after 1 year, although after 2 years there were no other differences between groups. Future research should examine ways to make community health and nutrition programmes more effective at supporting child development.
Background Poor nutrition and exposure to faecal contamination are associated with diarrhoea and growth faltering, both of which have long-term consequences for child health. We aimed to assess whether water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition interventions reduced diarrhoea or growth faltering.
Methods The WASH Benefits cluster-randomised trial enrolled pregnant women from villages in rural Kenya and evaluated outcomes at 1 year and 2 years of follow-up. Geographically-adjacent clusters were block-randomised to active control (household visits to measure mid-upper-arm circumference), passive control (data collection only), or compound-level interventions including household visits to promote target behaviours: drinking chlorinated water (water); safe sanitation consisting of disposing faeces in an improved latrine (sanitation); handwashing with soap (handwashing); combined water, sanitation, and handwashing; counselling on appropriate maternal, infant, and young child feeding plus small-quantity lipid-based nutrient supplements from 6–24 months (nutrition); and combined water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition. Primary outcomes were caregiver-reported diarrhoea in the past 7 days and length-for-age Z score at year 2 in index children born to the enrolled pregnant women. Masking was not possible for data collection, but analyses were masked. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01704105.
Findings Between Nov 27, 2012, and May 21, 2014, 8246 women in 702 clusters were enrolled and randomly assigned an intervention or control group. 1919 women were assigned to the active control group; 938 to passive control; 904 to water; 892 to sanitation; 917 to handwashing; 912 to combined water, sanitation, and handwashing; 843 to nutrition; and 921 to combined water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition. Data on diarrhoea at year 1 or year 2 were available for 6494 children and data on length-for-age Z score in year 2 were available for 6583 children (86% of living children were measured at year 2). Adherence indicators for sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition were more than 70% at year 1, handwashing fell to less than 25% at year 2, and for water was less than 45% at year 1 and less than 25% at year 2; combined groups were comparable to single groups. None of the interventions reduced diarrhoea prevalence compared with the active control. Compared with active control (length-for-age Z score –1·54) children in nutrition and combined water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition were taller by year 2 (mean difference 0·13 [95% CI 0·01–0·25] in the nutrition group; 0·16 [0·05–0·27] in the combined water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition group). The individual water, sanitation, and handwashing groups, and combined water, sanitation, and handwashing group had no effect on linear growth.
Interpretation Behaviour change messaging combined with technologically simple interventions such as water treatment, household sanitation upgrades from unimproved to improved latrines, and handwashing stations did not reduce childhood diarrhoea or improve growth, even when adherence was at least as high as has been achieved by other programmes. Counselling and supplementation in the nutrition group and combined water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition interventions led to small growth benefits, but there was no advantage to integrating water, sanitation, and handwashing with nutrition. The interventions might have been more effcacious with higher adherence or in an environment with lower baseline sanitation coverage, especially in this context of high diarrhoea prevalence.
Do social networks matter for the adoption of new political communication technologies? We collect complete social network data for sixteen Ugandan villages where an innovative reporting mobile platform was recently introduced, and show robust evidence of peer effects on technology adoption. However, peer effects were not observed in all networks. We develop a formal model showing that while peer effects facilitate adoption of technologies with minimal externalities (like agricultural practices), it can be more difficult for innovations with significant positive externalities to spread through a network. Early adopters might exaggerate benefits, leading others to discount information about the technology’s value. Thus, peer effects are likely to emerge only where informal institutions support truthful communication. We show that the observable implications of our model are borne out in the data. These impediments to social diffusion might help explain the slow and varied uptake of new political communication technologies around the world.
IPA Zambia is pleased to share its final bulletin from 2017. This bulletin features updates from our Saving for Safe Delivery study and the scale-ups of the food constraints and Catch Up projects. This bulletin also highlights IPA Zambia's dissemination events for the "Making Ghanaian Girls Great!" and "Interpersonal Communication to Encourage Use of Female Condoms in Zambia" studies.
Nearly 2.5 million mothers and babies die each year from complications in the immediate period around childbirth. Nairobi, Kenya has among the highest maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the world. Mounting evidence suggests delivering in a facility is not enough to drive mortality reductions, with utilization of poor quality facilities and delays in receiving care the major contributors to continued poor outcomes (Lozano et al. 2011). In addition to delivering in well-equipped facilities, women must arrive at the facility and be attended to in time for complications to be effectively managed. The “three delays” model attributes poor outcomes to delays in: (i) seeking care; (ii) arriving at the facility for delivery; and (iii) receiving adequate treatment once at the facility (Thaddeus 1994). These delays are strongly associated with morbidity and mortality (Pacagnella et al. 2014).
Delays could occur for many reasons including the need to travel far distances, information gaps about when to seek care in labor, or because women are away from facilities (e.g., because of overcrowding). Our preliminary work in Nairobi suggested that delays could also be occurring because of behavioral barriers to effective decision making and planning around facility delivery. Nairobi offers a very large, complex set of highly heterogeneous maternity facility options. Previous work has highlighted how choice in this type of decision context can lead to deferring decisions (Tversky and Shafir, 1992). In our preliminary work, we found that decisions about where to deliver were often made very late in pregnancy. We hypothesized that decision-making delays could lead to poor birth planning, which has been shown to increase delays in seeking care. We designed a “precommitment transfer package” which bundles a labeled cash transfer and precommitment conditional transfer (see online Appendix Section I). This intervention was designed to help women deliver where they want and to reduce delays, both by relieving financial barriers to on-time arrival and by facilitating earlier and more deliberate planning and implementation of plans for delivery. In other work, we analyze the impact of the intervention on the quality of delivery care received.