Using power blackouts to help understand the determinants of infant health

Jed Friedman writes an intriguing post on WB evaluation blog. He points to a study which looks at the impact of power blackout on infants health born 7-9 months later.

In May of 2008, the undersea cable that brings power to the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar was ruptured, plunging the island into a blackout that lasted 4 weeks. As a result, households employed in sectors such as manufacturing or tourism that relied on electricity experienced income declines while households in more traditional sectors such as farming did not suffer noticeable shortfalls. Fortunately any income decline was short-lived – the power was only out for 4 weeks – and in a matter of months income in all affected sectors had recovered to previous levels. Despite the brief duration of this income shock, could there have been any long-lasting consequences?

Well it turns out that infants born 7 to 9 months after the blackout were significantly smaller – an average of 75 grams smaller – than infants born within 6 months of the start of blackout or beyond 9 months after its end. This reduction translates into an 11% increase in the probability of a low weight birth. Burlando proposes reduced nutritional intake and heightened maternal stress, brought on by the blackout induced income shock, as the main transmission mechanism for lower birth weights.

He dissects the study and says one cannot ascribe lower weight to power blackout alone. More factors are there.

I found the linkage bit of blackout to infant weight pretty interesting….Evaluations are trying to prove too weird linkages I would believe…

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