Learning, Hygiene, and Traditional Medicine

  • Daniel Bennett (Contributor)
  • Naqvi, S. A. A. (Contributor)
  • Wolf-peter Schmidt (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentationScience to science


The provision of health information, which is a common public health strategy, is only effective if the information is credible. Infectious disease prevention messages that invoke the germ theory may fail to persuade people who are unfamiliar with microbes. A novel program in rural Pakistan supplements conventional hygiene instruction by
demonstrating with a microscope that microbes exist. Through a randomized evaluation, we show that this program leads to strong and lasting improvements in Hygiene and health for participants as well as their friends and family, while instruction alone does not. Adherence to traditional medicine, which offers another, non-pathogenic disease model, may undermine hygiene learning by strengthening prior beliefs. We show that hygiene and health improve less for believers in traditional medicine, while the intervention modestly weakens traditional beliefs. These results suggest that traditional
and modern beliefs are substitutes and that traditional medicine may exacerbate the burden of infectious disease.
Period3 Jan 20155 Jan 2015
Event titleAEA The Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) 2015 Annual Meeting
Event typeUnknown
Degree of RecognitionInternational