Through the looking glass: Environmental health economics in low and middle income countries ✶
Human interactions with the environment can profoundly impact many outcomes – health being chief among them. While the nature of environmental risks changes across time and space, the burden of disease attributable to environmental risk hovers stubbornly around one quarter of the total global disease burden. Further, environmental risks are particularly damaging to the health of children, but also to the elderly and the impoverished in low and middle income countries (LMICs). This chapter highlights the ways in which economics provides analytical insight about the human–environment relationship and about potential ways to prevent diseases. Specifically, we contend that the household production framework – which focuses on the beneficiary and households – helps us understand when and how households will avert environmental risks. While economists have been mostly on the sidelines of environmental health research, there is a growing literature from LMICs that examines three aspects of reduction in household environmental risks: (i) how households value these risk reductions, (ii) what factors drive household adoption of environmental health technologies, and (iii) what are the impacts of these technologies on household health. At the risk of simplification, our review of this literature finds relatively low values for environmental risk reductions, which is mirrored by limited adoption of environmental health technologies and, accordingly, disappointing impact on health. Economists have made less progress in linking the literatures on valuation, adoption and impacts with each other. We conclude by explaining why the next wave of research should focus on these links and on multiple risks, environmental disasters, and political economy of the supply of interventions.
Pattanayak, SK; Pakhtigian, EL; Litzow, EL
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