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Article

Rachel Baffsky, Lynn Kemp, and Anne Bunde-Birouste

Sports-based positive youth development (SB-PYD) programs are health promotion programs that intentionally use sports to build life skills and leadership capacity among young people at risk of social exclusion. The defining characteristics of SB-PYD programs are that they are strengths-based, holistic, and use sports as a vehicle to maximize young people’s health, social, and educational outcomes. SB-PYD programs aim to enhance modifiable social determinants of health (such as social inclusion) by explicitly addressing three Ottawa charter action areas; strengthening community action, developing personal skills, and creating supportive environments. These programs have been increasingly implemented since the early 2000s to address the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Despite their growth, research indicates that SB-PYD programs are often designed, implemented, and evaluated without evidence-based theories of change. An evidence-based theory of change is a visual depiction of a program’s assumptions, activities, contextual factors, and outcomes supported by scientific findings. A lack of evidence-based theory of change becomes problematic at the implementation phase when practitioners are trying to determine if their programs should be adapted or fixed. Without an evidence-based theory of change, practitioners are making changes based on their intuition, which limits program outcomes. However, the process of developing a theory of change is time-consuming and resource intensive. Multiple calls to action have been made for SB-PYD practitioners who have successfully developed evidence-based theories of change to share their process with others in the field. This will provide a blueprint for other SB-PYD practitioners to develop and articulate their own theories of change to optimize program development and adaptation. Traditional translational research models assume the development of an evidence-based theory of change is the first step in a linear process of developing a sustainable health promotion program. However, in the 2010s, researchers started to observe that the development and adaptation of health promotion programs was rarely a linear process in reality, and that case studies are needed to provide empirical support for this claim. It is valuable for SB-PYD practitioners to consider the benefits of using translational research to develop and revise evidence-based theories of change for programs at any stage of implementation to maximize their public health impact.

Article

Regulating quality is challenging because in public utilities such as water and sanitation, quality is multidimensional, is not always objectively measurable, and can be hard to verify, both ex ante and ex post. It is therefore useful to review the main insights from the New Economics of Regulation theoretical literature on quality provision to guide public policy. Focusing on formal utilities, this normative approach emphasizes the asymmetry of information between a regulator and the regulated companies. The analysis shows that when quality is verifiable, it can be included in a contract exactly like a quantity variable. Its provision, however, will be distorted as a result of regulated quantities also being distorted due to asymmetric information. When quality and quantity are complements, service quality ends up being lower because in the optimal regulatory contract, quantities are distorted downward for rent extraction. If quality is not verifiable but is observable by the users, the operator freely chooses its quality investment. It tends to underprovide quality when an improvement in quality raises the gross consumer surplus more than it increases the gross profit of sales because it does not take into account the nonmonetary benefit generated by its investment. It tends to overprovide quality otherwise. In order to correct these distortions, the regulator has to use a production allocation rule to simultaneously lower the informational rent and boost quality. The regulator has a single instrument to achieve the conflicting goals of rent extraction and quality provision. Quantities can be higher or lower than the first-best optimal levels depending on the correction needed to control quality. Finally, when quality is neither verifiable nor observable by consumers, as is typically the case with credence attributes such as those concerning process of production impacting security or pollution, the optimal level of quality investment from the firm’s perspective is zero. In this case, the easiest solution is often to impose a minimum standard and either rely on certification agencies to ensure that this minimum target is met or directly audit the quality investments made by the regulator. Finally, when improving the quality of water and sanitation services requires the creation of new infrastructure or institution, the high opportunity cost of public funds in developing countries raises the question of whether it is optimal to commit public funds for such investments. The analysis illuminates the trade-off between financing those investments with private funds and protecting consumer surplus.

Article

Paul Dalziel and Trudi Cameron

A strong social gradient in the experience of health means that a person’s health tends to reflect social position. There is strong evidence that average health outcomes in a country tend to be poorer when income inequality is greater. Consequently, public health policy is influenced by a country’s economic situation. Adopting principles in the Helsinki Statement on Health in All Policies, this means governments should pay attention to the public health implications of its economic policies, moving beyond simple analyses of how policy might support growth in gross domestic product. Since 2009, a global movement has aimed to shift the emphasis of economic policy evaluation from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being. This approach is known as well-being economics. Many countries have engaged with citizens to create their own national well-being framework of statistical indicators. Some countries have passed legislation or designed new institutions to focus specific policy areas on promoting the well-being of current and future generations. A small number of countries are attempting to embed well-being in their core economic policies. Further policy work and research are required for the vision of a well-being economy to be realized.

Article

Water planners and policy analysts need to pay closer attention to the behavioral aspects of water use, including the use of nonprice measures such as norms, public communications, and intrinsic motivations. Empirical research has shown that people are motivated by normative as well as economic incentives when it comes to water. In fact, this research finds that after exposure to feedback about water use, adding an economic incentive (rebate) for reducing water use holds no additional power. In other cases, nonprice measures can be a way to increase the salience, and subsequently, effectiveness of any adopted pricing mechanisms. We review these empirical findings and locate them within more general literature on normative incentives for behavioral change. Given increasing water scarcity and decreasing water security in cities, policy planners need to make more room for normative incentives when designing rules for proenvironmental behavior.

Article

Luiz Augusto Cassanha Galvao, Volney Câmara, and Daniel Buss

The relationship between environment and health is part of the history of medicine and has always been important to any study of human health and to public-health interventions. In Latin America many health improvements are related to environmental interventions, such as the provision of better water and sanitation services. Latin America’s development, industrialization, and sweeping urbanization have brought many improvements to the well-being of its populations; they have also inaugurated new societies, with new patterns of consumption. The region’s basic environmental-health interventions have needed to be updated and upgraded to include disciplines such as toxicology, environmental epidemiology, environmental engineering, and many others. Multidisciplinary and inter-sector approaches are paramount to understanding new profiles of health and well-being, and to promoting effective public-health interventions. The new social, economic, labor, and consumption aspects of modern Latin American society have become more and more relevant to understanding the complex interactions in the region’s social, biological, and physical environment, which are essential to explaining some of the emerging and re-emerging public-health problems. Environmental health, as concept and as intervention, is simple and easily understood, but no longer sufficient to achieve the levels of health and well-being expected and required by these new realities. Many global changes such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and mass migrations has been identified as main cause of ill health and are at the center of the sustainable development challenges in general, and many are critical and specific public health. To face this development, other frameworks have emerged, such as planetary health and environmental and social determinants of health. Public health remains central to some, such as the improved environmental-health agenda, while others assign public health a relative position in a variety of overarching frameworks.

Article

Catarina Roseta-Palma, Miguel Carvalho, and Ricardo Correia

Many utilities, including water, electricity, and gas, use nonlinear pricing schedules which replace a single uniform unit price, with multiple elements such as access charges and consumption blocks with different prices. Whereas consumers are typically assumed to be utility maximizers with nonlinear budget constraints, it is more likely that consumer behavior shows limited-rationality features such as reference dependence. Recent studies of water demand have explored consumer reactions to social comparison nudges, which can moderate consumption and might be a useful tool given low demand-price elasticities. Other authors have noted the difficulties of correct price perception when tariff schedules are complex, and attributed those low elasticities to a lack of information. Nonetheless, it is also possible that consumers form reference prices, relative to which the actual price paid is compared, in a way that affects consumption choices. Faced with a nonlinear price schedule, such as increasing block tariffs, consumers could evaluate their actual marginal price as a loss or a gain relative to a particular reference price that is derived from the schedule. Introducing gain/loss terms into the utility function, in the discrete/continuous model of consumer choice that has been widely used for water demand analysis, leads to consumption decisions that vary when a higher-than-reference price is seen as a loss and a lower-than-reference price as a gain. Utilities might wish to explore these reference-price effects according to their strategic goals. For example, if there are capacity constraints or water scarcity problems, potential water savings can be achieved from highlighting the first-block price as a reference and framing higher-block prices as losses, inducing conservation even without raising overall prices. Furthermore, if higher-block prices are subsequently raised the demand response could be stronger.

Article

R. Quentin Grafton, Long Chu, and Paul Wyrwoll

Water insecurity poses threats to both human welfare and ecological systems. Global water abstractions (extractions) have increased threefold over the period 1960–2010, and an increasing trend in abstractions is expected to continue. Rising water use is placing significant pressure on water resources, leading to depletion of surface and underground water systems, and exposing up to 4 billion people to high levels of seasonal or persistent water insecurity. Climate change is deepening the risks of water scarcity by increasing rainfall variability. By the 2050s, the water–climate change challenge could cause an additional 620 million people to live with chronic water shortage and increase by 75% the proportion of cropland exposed to drought. While there is no single solution to water scarcity or water justice, increasing the benefits of water use through better planning and incentives can help. Pricing is an effective tool to regulate water consumption for irrigation, for residential uses, and especially in response to droughts. For a water allocation to be efficient, the water price paid by users should be equal to the marginal economic cost of water supply. Accounting for all costs of supply is important even though, in practice, water prices are typically set to meet a range of social and political objectives. Dynamic water pricing provides a tool for increasing allocative efficiency in short-term water allocation and the long-term planning of water resources. A dynamic relationship exists between water consumption at a point in time and water scarcity in the future. Thus, dynamic water pricing schemes may take into account the benefit of consuming water at that time and also the water availability that could be used should a drought occur in the future. Dynamic water pricing can be applied with the risk-adjusted user cost (RAUC), which measures the risk impact of current water consumption on the welfare of future water users.

Article

Street science is the processes used by community residents to understand, document, and take action to address the environmental health issues they are experiencing. Street science is an increasingly essential process in global urban health, as more and more people live in complex environments where physical and social inequalities create cumulative disease burdens. Street science builds on a long tradition of critical public health that values local knowledge, participatory action research, and community-driven science, sometimes referred to as “citizen science.” Street scientists often partner with professional scientists, but science from the street does not necessarily fit into professional models, variables or other standards of positivist data. Street science is not one method, but rather an approach where residents are equally expert as professional scientists, and together they co-produce evidence for action. In this way, street science challenges conventional notions in global health and urban planning, which tend to divorce technical issues from their social setting and discourage a plurality of participants from engaging in everything from problem setting to decision-making. Street science does not romanticize local or community knowledge as always more accurate or superior to other ways of knowing and doing, but it also recognizes that local knowledge acts as an oppositional discourse that gives voice to the often silent suffering of disadvantaged people. At its best, street science can offer a framework for a new urban health science that incorporates community knowledge and expertise to ensure our cities and communities promote what is already working, confront the inequities experienced by the poor and vulnerable, and use this evidence to transform the physical and social conditions where people live, learn, work, and play.

Article

Occupational health and safety concerns classically encompass conditions and hazards in workplaces which, with sufficient exposure, can lead to injury, distress, illness, or death. The ways in which work is organized and the arrangements under which people are employed have also been linked to worker health. Migrants are people who cross borders away from their usual place of residence, and about one in seven people worldwide is a migrant. Terms like “immigrant” and “emigrant” refer to the direction of that movement relative to the stance of the speaker. Any person who might be classified as a migrant and who works or seeks to work is an immigrant worker and may face challenges to safety, health, and well-being related to the work he or she does. The economic, legal, and social circumstances of migrant workers can place them into employment and working conditions that endanger their safety, health, or well-being. While action in support of migrant worker health must be based on systematic understanding of these individuals’ needs, full understanding the possible dangers to migrant worker health is limited by conceptual and practical challenges to public health surveillance and research about migrant workers. Furthermore, intervention in support of migrant worker health must balance tensions between high-risk and population-based approaches and need to address the broader, structural circumstances that pattern the health-related experiences of migrant workers. Considering the relationships between work and health that include but go beyond workplace hazards and occupational injury, and engaging with the ways in which structural influences act on health through work, are complex endeavors. Without more critically engaging with these issues, however, there is a risk of undermining the effectiveness of efforts to improve the lot of migrant workers by “othering” the workers or by failing to focus on what is causing the occupational safety and health concern in the first place—the characteristics of the work people do. Action in support of migrant workers should therefore aim to ameliorate structural factors that place migrants into disadvantageous conditions while working to improve conditions for all workers.

Article

For decades, researchers have been puzzled by the finding that despite low socioeconomic status, fewer social mobility opportunities, and access barriers to health care, some migrant groups appear to experience lower mortality than the majority population of the respective host country (and possibly also of the country of origin). This phenomenon has been acknowledged as a paradox, and in turn, researchers attempted to explain this paradox through theoretical interpretations, innovative research designs, and methodological speculations. Specific focus on the salmon effect/bias and the convergence theory may help characterize the past and current tendencies in migrant health research to explain the paradox of healthy migrants: the first examines whether the paradox reveals a real effect or is a reflection of methodological error, and the second suggests that even if migrants indeed have a mortality advantage, it may soon disappear due to acculturation. These discussions should encompass mental health in addition to physical health. It is impossible to forecast the future trajectories of migration patterns and equally impossible to always accurately predict the physical and mental health outcomes migrants/refugees who cannot return to the country of origin in times of war, political conflict, and severe climate change. However, following individuals on their path to becoming acculturated to new societies will not only enrich our understanding of the relationship between migration and health but also contribute to the acculturation process by generating advocacy for inclusive health care.