January 2015

Reactivity in Rapidly Collected Hygiene and Toilet Spot Check Measurements: A Cautionary Tale for Longitudinal Studie

Arnold, B.F., Khush, R., Ramaswamy, P., Rajkumar, P., Durairaj, N., Balakrishnan, K., Colford, J.M. (2014). Reactivity in Rapidly Collected Hygiene and Toilet Spot-Check Measurements: A Cautionary Tale for Longitudinal Studies. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 92,1: 159-162

ABSTRACT

Discreet collection of spot check observations to measure household hygiene conditions is a common measurement technique in epidemiologic studies of hygiene in low-income countries. The objective of this study was to determine whether the collection of spot check observations in longitudinal studies could itself induce reactivity (i.e., change participant behavior). We analyzed data from a 12-month prospective cohort study in rural Tamil Nadu, India that was conducted in the absence of any hygiene or toilet promotion activities. Our data included hygiene and toilet spot checks from 10,427 household visits. We found substantial evidence of participant reactivity to spot check observations of hygiene practices that were easy to modify on short notice. For example, soap observed at the household’s primary handwashing location increased from 49% at enrollment to 81% by the fourth visit and remained at or above 77% for the remainder of the study.

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