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Cookstove Technology Needs More Research, Development To Be Effective In Real-World Settings

A recent randomized trial by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers looking at how well clean cookstoves worked in real-world settings found that while there was “a meaningful reduction in smoke inhalation in the first year after a stove was installed, … [o]ver a longer period … they saw no health benefits and no reduction in fuel use” because families did not maintain or repair broken stoves, a Bloomberg editorial notes, adding, “This doesn’t suggest the clean cookstove campaign should be abandoned so much as slowed down. It would be wise to test various designs in real-life settings, and, where necessary, take more time to human-proof models.”

“Those castoffs are a reminder that, however well-intentioned, many assistance programs for the developing world can prove fruitless,” the editorial says, adding that such studies’ “purpose is not to debunk the idea of helping poor countries. On the contrary, such work bolsters the case for aid by ensuring that dollars are well spent.” Bloomberg continues, “Generally, such trials point out the need to alter, not ditch, assistance programs,” and concludes, “Long the standard for medical programs, randomized trials can help sort promising projects in foreign aid from truly effective ones, and speed our way toward a better world” (5/13).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.