Africa & Development
December 13, 2020

Belief Systems and Health Behaviors in Guinea Bissau

While recent decades have seen remarkable progress in improved global health outcomes, Sub-Saharan Africa(SSA) remains a region where maternal and newborn diseases remain the primary causes of death [World Bank (2013)]. Guinea-Bissau is no exception, with nearly 70 percent of the population living below the poverty line. In addition to a high maternal mortality rate, Guinea-Bissau suffers from a high rate (25%) of chronic malnutrition.


This project investigates how much of low demand for preventive health care can be explained by lack of awareness or knowledge and the extent to which knowledge and beliefs on health are shifted. Our study will take place in two regions within Guinea Bissau, Biombo, and Cacheu. We will conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that aims to provide reliable health information to change behavior effectively. This research's key focus will be on studying and understanding health-related beliefs, as an important first step to understanding how to best develop policies to change behavior.


Our study's primary component is providing information on the benefits of preventative care products and services that are available but underutilized. A key innovation of this intervention is that we will study how the provider of information's identity matters for how individuals perceive this information and subsequently use it when making health decisions. This will be combined with a detailed survey of individuals’ beliefs about health outcomes.


This project will be the first large-scale study to put together a randomized information intervention on health behaviors and direct measurement of beliefs in Guinea Bissau.


Principal Investigators:

Alexander Coutts (Nova SBE)

Teresa Molina (Nova SBE)

Pedro Vicente (Nova SBE)


Field Coordination:

Bruno Spellanzon (Nova SBE)



Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)




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Nova SBE NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center

Nova SBE NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center

Nova SBE NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center operates since 2011. It is producing applied research on sub-Saharan Africa, where it has collaborated with a number of public authorities, private companies, and local organizations.

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