Contextualizing Haath Mein Sehat's Habit-Formation Intervention within a Neoliberal Environment

Summer 2009

Miriam Alvarado : Development Studies, Economics

Mentor: Clare Talwalker, International and Area Studies

This summer, I will be in Mumbai, India, researching the effects of behavior change approaches to public health issues. As a member of Haath Mein Sehat (HMS), a water and sanitation-based student organization, I will be an active participant in the creation of an intervention intended to increase rates of handwashing amongst children in slum communities. My research will focus on assessing the consequences of HMS’ focus on behavior change, and how this approach is perceived by the communities in which HMS works. Through this analysis, I intend to address the following broader question: What it useful and promising about behavior change-based approaches to public health, and what is limiting and problematic about them?

This research fellowship has given me a chance to pursue a question that could have a big impact on what I decide to do after graduation. I am very interested in behavior change interventions, and have considered applying for jobs in related fields. However, until now, I have not had the opportunity to devote this much time and energy to analyzing the strengths and limitations of a behavior change intervention. Through this research, I hope to gain insights into the intersections of development and health that will allow me to make a more informed decision about what kind of career I choose to pursue. In addition, this research will hopefully help me to understand how HMS can continue to evolve as an organization.