Dynamic sensor on cookstoves to encourage and reinforce healthy behaviour change

Household air pollution accounts for nearly three million deaths annually, largely among women and children in developing countries. This projest uses a human centred design approach to identify messages and triggers that may improve households in Rwanda’s consistent and exclusive use of a propane cookstove, provided as part of a health efficacy study.

The aim of this TRANSFORM project is to assess whether dynamic sensors that provide feedback to users on household air pollution levels increase adoption of clean cooking behaviour and discourage traditional stove use. Each household has been provided with a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stove.

Exclusive use of LPG stoves can lead to household air pollution reductions of 90% compared to open fires or traditional stoves. However, several previous studies have shown that households often continue to use their traditional stoves in tandem with clean-burning stoves, a behaviour that significantly reduces the potentially realised improvements in health that would result from exclusive use of clean cooking technology. Consequently, there is clear justification for developing more effective approaches to encourage exclusive use of clean cooking.

PSU found through a human centred design consultation process that households may respond to messages on health and environmental impacts of cooking practices, and may be triggered by both auditory and visual feedback. Based on these insights, PSU designed and validated a system linking particulate monitoring with persistent visual feedback and a variable alarm threshold triggering an audio recording. PSU will install sensors in households in two rounds of 50 households at each round, beginning at the beginning in Q2, 2018. We will schedule households for sensor installation approximately 8 weeks after they have been enrolled in the trial to allow households to establish a stable pattern of stove use. Sensors will be left in place for a total of 16 weeks per household.

During the pre-test period, which will last a total of six weeks, the sensor will continuously monitor their LPG stove use and cooking area pollution without providing feedback to the household members. During the post-test period, which will last for 10 weeks, the household will be made aware of the presence of the sensor and it will begin alerting them when cooking area pollution levels exceed the threshold indicating traditional stove use is occurring.

This technology will be deployed in households in Rwanda in 2018, where a 12-month study is planned to evaluate the impact of active feedback on household air quality and stove use behaviour.