Harsha Thirumurthy, Perelman School of Medicine Applying behavioral economics insights to achieve reductions in household air pollution in India

Principal Investigator

Harsha Thirumurthy
Medical Ethics & Health Policy, 
Perelman School of Medicine

Project Abstract

Exposure to smoke from traditional cook stoves and open fires – the primary means of cooking for nearly 3 billion people in developing countries – causes 4 million premature deaths every year, including 1.2 million deaths in India. The global burden of disease from such household air pollution (HAP) is accompanied by concerns about environmental impacts of households’ burning of biomass fuels, which include forest degradation, ambient air pollution, and climate change. With approximately 60% of India’s population relying on solid fuel for their household cooking needs, switching to cleaner and more efficient cook stoves and fuels can reduce HAP while also opening economic opportunities through reduced time allocated to cooking. However, sustained and exclusive use of cleaner cooking methods remains elusive for many households in India. The proposed project will develop a new collaboration with Indian researchers that leverages behavioral economics insights to achieve changes in cooking practices. A pilot randomized trial will be conducted to test whether short-term provision of low-cost behavioral interventions can promote sustained increases in exclusive use of cleaner cooking methods among households in peri-urban settings. The project will foster a new collaboration with a leading Indian research institution and generate data to inform future projects and public policies.