STBI:Can Information Enhanced with Nudges Mitigate Childhood Overweight in Vietnam?

  • Topic: Can Information Enhanced with Nudges Mitigate Childhood Overweight in Vietnam?
  • Presenter: Dr. Pham Khanh Nam, University of Economics HCMC
  • Time: 11:00 – Thursday, 1 April, 2021
  • Venue: Room B1- 203, Campus B, 279 Nguyen Tri Phuong, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City

Abstract:

Many developing countries are experiencing nutrition transitions induced by growing incomes, lifestyle changes, and globalization. While childhood undernutrition persists, childhoodovernutrition is surging. Since parents play a major role in shaping the behavior of young children, updating parental information sets along with integrated nudges may be a cost-effective childhood overweight prevention tool. We analyze the effect of such an approach among 726 overweight primary schoolchildren in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Parents were randomly offered an opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle conversation with nutritionists that led to goal setting with soft commitment. To accentuate the impact of the information, parents were sent SMS reminders to nudge them toward the goals they set, personalized baseline child BMI-for- age report cards, and weight scales to track changes in their children’s weight status over time.

The intervention was followed by reductions in children’s body fat percentage, waist circumference, and overweight prevalence after 6 months. These anthropometric improvements were accompanied by pro-health changes in perceptions and behavior. Parents updated own perceptions about the healthiness of their children’s diet quality and improved the quality of their children’s diets. Conversely, parental perceptions regarding the healthiness of their children’s weight held steady, which is likely explained by a widespread parental preference for overnourished children in Vietnam. Snack choice experiments conducted at schools revealed that child behavior independent of their parent’s observation was not affected by the intervention, suggesting that parent-directed child behavior changes at home rather than in-school child behavior changes drive the intervention-induced anthropometric improvements. Overall, we document a sizeable net benefit of the intervention among girls.

About the presenter: Pham Khanh Nam is Dean of School of Economics and Director of the Economy and Environment Partnership for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA) – University of Economics Ho Chi Minh city. Nam received his PhD in Economics from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. His areas of research interest are behavioral economics, experimental economics and environmental economics with a particular focus on social dilemmas related to the use of common resources; and the role of social preferences in economic decisions. He has published his researches in a number of peer-reviewed journals, including Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Economic Psychology, Oxford Economic Paper, Land Use Policy or Journal of Development Studies.

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