Wednesday, August 2, 2017

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DC Regional Student Conference Session: Social Relationships, Institutions, and Maternal Health

by Menbere Shiferaw, PhD candidate in Public Policy, NYU Wagner School of Public Service

As the world celebrated World Health Day on Friday April 7th, two junior scholars presented timely and compelling research on maternal health and intimate partner violence in India and the United States, respectively. 

About 98% of maternal deaths (deaths while pregnant) occur in developing and low-resource countries. More importantly and most relevant for policy, most of these deaths are preventable. One way to reduce maternal mortality is to have qualified medical personnel present during pregnancy and childbirth. Institutional births and access to prenatal care, however, are not always the norm in many low-resource countries. Physician and MHA student Mandar V. Bodas evaluated the impact of two major health policy initiatives in India seeking to increase both. Using rich data from the India Human Development Survey and a difference-in-difference methodology, he finds that the policies were effective in increasing both prenatal care and institutional births in rural areas. The results, surprisingly, did not depend on quality of health care facilities.  
 
Rarely do we hear the terms economics and intimate partner violence (IPV) used in the same context, but PhD student Nicholas P. Mastron (public policy) presented compelling theory and evidence on why we ought to. Mastron began his presentation by giving a definition of IPV: “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner” (CDC). IPV, however, often results in patterns of economic abuse as well. How do economic forms of IPV affect individuals? After a careful meta-evaluation of publications from the Department of Justice and academic journals, Mastron highlighted key trends. First, many abuse situations arise from economic conflicts. Second, children are often used as a deterrent to female labor force participation (financial superiority). Third, workplace harassment and assaults can greatly reduce productivity. Lastly, there are robust trends in immigration bartering (e.g. sex trafficking). Mastron’s study encourages us to focus on policies beyond the usual humanitarian approach and consider the various economic interventions that can strengthen the legal standing and interests of survivors of IPV. 
 
 

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