Awareness of Health Effects of Cooking Smoke Among Women in the Gondar Region of Ethiopia

A Pilot Survey

Published in: BMC International Health and Human Rights, v. 8, 2008, p. 1-7

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2008

by Marc A. Edelstein, Emma Pitchforth, Getahun Asres, Michael Silverman, Neeta S. Kulkarni

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BACKGROUND: The burning of biomass fuels results in exposure to high levels of indoor air pollution, with consequent health effects. Possible interventions to reduce the exposure include changing cooking practices and introduction of smoke-free stoves supported by health education. Social, cultural and financial constraints are major challenges to implementation and success of interventions. The objective of this study is to determine awareness of women in Gondar, Ethiopia to the harmful health effects of cooking smoke and to assess their willingness to change cooking practices. METHODS: We used a single, administered questionnaire which included questions on household circumstances, general health, awareness of health impact of cooking smoke and willingness to change. We interviewed 15 women from each of rural, urban-traditional and middle class backgrounds. RESULTS: Eighty percent of rural women cooked indoors using biomass fuel with no ventilation. Rural women reported two to three times more respiratory disease in their children and in themselves compared to the other two groups. Although aware of the negative effect of smoke on their own health, only 20% of participants realised it caused problems in children, and 13% thought it was a cause for concern. Once aware of adverse effects, women were willing to change cooking practices but were unable to afford cleaner fuels or improved stoves. CONCLUSION: Increasing the awareness of the health-effects of indoor biomass cooking smoke may be the first step in implementing a programme to reduce exposure.

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