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Health & Psychology


Behavioral biases such as procrastination and limited attention affect everyone and may contribute significantly to individuals' decision-making related to health. The answer to when and to what extent human behavioral biases act as a barrier to improved health outcomes is important for designing effective policies. Research collaborations between development economists and psychologists have helped advance the field of behavioral science but more important policy-relevant research gaps remain, particularly in low-resource settings. Our aim is to promote greater interdisciplinary research that takes key insights from psychology to solve both demand- and supply-side health sector challenges in developing countries. By doing so, this research will help generate the evidence required to design more cost-effective, high-impact health care policy. 

Our Approach

To achieve our aim of advancing policy-relevant behavioral science for improved health in developing countries, CEGA actively encourages research that integrates psychology and economics. We are building an interdisciplinary research community of academic psychologists and economists. This community of learning and practice will share existing methods and tools and will combine lab research with field trials to test innovative solutions to health sector problems. CEGA also manages research initiatives that provide catalytic funding for affiliated researchers and implementing partners to conduct rigorous impact evaluations of programs that test behavioral interventions for improved health in developing countries. Dedicated staff at CEGA synthesize research findings and develop partnerships with decision-makers to ensure that policies are informed by evidence and that effective programs are promoted and scaled. 

Behavioral Economics in Reproductive Health (BERI)

The Behavioral Economics in Reproductive Health Initiative (BERI) is a coordinated program of research, launched in 2013 with support from the Hewlett Foundation, to improve reproductive health decision-making and outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa.  Although significant structural barriers to high-quality reproductive health services still persist in most developing countries, individuals often face additional behavioral barriers that affect take-up. These can include universal individual-level biases such as habits or present bias as well as biases among health care providers and social norms. BERI provides funding for affiliated economists, psychologists, and public health researchers to partner with governments and NGOs to test interventions designed to improve reproductive health decision-making. To date, BERI has funded seven studies in seven countries on topics including soft skills, goal-setting, and social incentives. Read CEGA's BERI White Paper here

Long-Run Outcomes of Childhood Health Interventions in Kenya

To what extent do childhood gains from social programs translate to economic gains in adulthood? CEGA Faculty Director Ted Miguel examined the impact of a child-health program on adult living standards by following participants in a deworming program in Kenya that began in 1998. The original study’s findings showed that the treatment group, which received two to three more years of deworming, self-reported significant improvement in health, years enrolled in school, test scores, higher wage earnings, and a 12% increase in hours worked over time. The research had a strong effect on policy, with NGOs & government bodies investing in mass deworming programs. The success of the research led to multiple follow-up surveys being conducted, with the most recent being the 20-year follow-up survey, currently in progress. 

Research Highlights

The Impact of Cash Transfers on Delivery Planning and Maternal Care Quality in Kenya

This randomized evaluation pilot tested two types of maternal cash transfers designed to address potential behavioral and structural barriers to timely arrival at high quality delivery facilities.  The study found promising results on the impact of transfers labeled for delivery alongside precommitment to a specific facility.  Further at-scale research is planned.

The Role of Hard and Soft Skills in Entrepreneurial Success: Experimental Evidence from Uganda

This randomized evaluation evalutes the impact of entrepreneurship training for Ugandan youth and the role of soft versus hard skills on labor market, business success, and fertility outcomes. Results forthcoming.

Promoting Safe Sex Among Adolescents in Tanzania

This randomized evaluation aims to identify the demand side and supply side factors which influence adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH) behavior. Researchers are testing the impact of SRH education for girls, SRH education for boys, access to contraception, and individual-level goal-setting among girls on sexual knowledge and behavior, pregnancy, and other health, economic, and behavioral indicators. Results forthcoming.

Maternal Mortality Risk and The Gender Gap in Desired Fertility

This randomized evaluation in Zambia builds on an earlier study that suggests men’s fertility preferences may be an important determinant of family planning. This current study investigates whether providing information to male partners about the risk of maternal mortality affects desired fertility, contraceptive use, and fertility outcomes. Results forthcoming.

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