Seeing Is Believing: Screening Anemia to Make Risks Salient Experimental Evidence from El Salvador

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May 2024
We investigate the impact of non-invasive anemia screening on treatment adherence in El Salvador. Anemia is a common childhood condition in low-income countries, due mainly to iron-deficiency, which if left untreated during critical development periods can have lasting health consequences. While effective treatments exist, adherence to treatment is often challenging, since the symptoms of mild to moderate anemia such as lack of energy or paleness can be easily overlooked. We test whether making anemia risks salient through screening during child-well visits can improve treatment adherence, using a cluster-randomized trial in high-poverty areas in El Salvador. Preliminary results indicate that screening enhances treatment adherence and there is suggestive evidence of a reduction of anemia among children 6 to 23 months old. Our results highlight the potential of screening in making anemia risks salient and motivating caregivers to follow treatment plans.