Can simple psychological interventions increase preventive health investment?

Anett John*, Kate Orkin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Behavioral constraints may explain part of the low demand for preventive health products. We test the effects of two light-touch psychological interventions on water chlorination and related health and economic outcomes using a randomized controlled trial among 3,750 women in rural Kenya. One intervention encourages participants to visualize alternative realizations of the future, and the other builds participants’ ability to make concrete plans. After 12 weeks, visualization increases objectively measured chlorination, reduces diarrhea episodes among children, and increases savings. Effects on chlorination and savings persist after almost 3 years. Effects of the planning intervention are weaker and largely insignificant. Analysis of mechanisms suggests both interventions increase self-efficacy—beliefs about one’s ability to achieve desired outcomes. Visualization also increases participants’ skill in forecasting their future utility. The interventions do not differentially affect beliefs and knowledge about chlorination. Results suggest simple psychological interventions can increase future-oriented behaviors, including use of preventive health technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1001-1047
Number of pages47
JournalJournal of the European Economic Association
Issue number3
Early online date30 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Johannes Haushofer, Clair Null, Michael Kremer, and the WASH Benefits Kenya team for collaboration and advice; Jane Dougherty, Marta Grabowska, Magdalena Larreboure, Daniel Mellow, Winnie Mughogho, Moritz Poll, Clemence Pougué-Biyong, and the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics for excellent research assistance; and Nava Ashraf, Alexander Douglas, Pascaline Dupas, David Laibson, Xavier D’Haultfoeuille, Alessandro Iaria, and Pedro Rey-Biel for comments. Two pre-analysis plans for this study are registered at Funding is gratefully acknowledged from National Institutes for Health (grant NIH UH2 NR016378 to Johannes Haushofer), the Centre for Study of African Economies Research Fund and United Kingdom Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund (to Kate Orkin), and Labex Ecodec Investissements d’Avenir (grant ANR-11-LABX-0047 to Anett John). The project was approved by the Princeton (#7376) and KEMRI (#536) Institutional Review Boards.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of European Economic Association.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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