Health and Health Policy in India

Jeffrey Hammer has been involved in numerous research projects with a variety of colleagues on issues of health policy in India. He is currently writing the health volume for the “Program on Indian Economic Policies: Free Trade, Democracy, and Entrepreneurial Development” at Columbia University (series editors: Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya). The working title is “It’s broken: Health policy in India”

Recent and ongoing studies include:

Recall periods and survey responses. This is a methodological study that examines the effect that different wording in questionnaires have on the responses people give to common questions about whether they were sick recently and whether they sought treatment for their problems. Poor people appear to get sick quite often, so much so that a monthly recall shows many fewer incidents of illness, visits to medical practitioners and expenditure on medical care than a two-week recall period. This effect declines continuously with income.


“The impact of recall periods on reported mortality and health seeking behavior”, (with Jishnu Das and Carolina Sanchez-Paramo), Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming.

Absenteeism among medical personnel in India: Implementing a nationally representative survey that entailed surprise visits to Primary Health Clinics and schools, this study found that over 40% of personnel at PHC’s were absent at any one time. This was in addition to vacant positions and salaries were paid for these workers. This work has been in conjunction with Nazmul Chaudhury and F. Halsey Rogers at the World Bank, Michael Kremer at Harvard and Karthik Muralidharan at UCSD.


“Missing in Action: Teachers and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries” (with Michael Kremer, Nazmul Chaudhury, Karthik Muralidharan and F. Halsey Rogers), Journal of Economic Perspectives, v. 20, no. 1, Sping 2006.

“Teacher Absenteeism in India: A Snapshot” (with Michael Kremer, Nazmul Chaudhury, Karthik Muralidharan and F. Halsey Rogers) Journal of the European Economics Association, 2005. Reprinted in The Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India, Primary Education: Issues and Perspectives, New Delhi, 2006.

“Ghost Doctors: Absenteeism in Rural Bangladeshi Health Facilities” (with Nazmul Chaudhury), The World Bank Economic Review v. 18, no. 3, 2004

“Health personnel absenteeism in India: descriptive statistics and correlations” (with Nazmul Chaudhury, Michael Kremer, Karthik Muralidharan and F. Halsey Rogers) CHW working paper series.

“Is there a doctor in the house?: Absenteeism among health workers in India”  (with Nazmul Chaudhury, Michael Kremer, Karthik Muralidharan and F. Halsey Rogers) submitted.

Inauspicious Days and Caesarian Section Deliveries in Chennai (with Jagdish Bhagwati and V.R. Muraleedharan) As a part of a larger study by Professor Muraleedharan at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai on non-medical determinants of medical procedures, this study uses hospital records to show that people tend to avoid “amavasya” (new moon) days when scheduling C-Sections. Preliminary results indicate this hypothesis cannot be rejected.

Quality of Health care in India See description here.

Urban Services and the Poor in Delhi (with Michael Walton, Veena Das and Partho Mukhopadhyay) This project, funded by DFID, seeks to understand how people living in informal slums come to receive public services and how these services influence their health and other aspects of well-being. Using a combination of survey techniques and detailed ethnographic studies, the project seeks to link social connectedness, relationships with influential middle-men and political action to services received. A particular focus will be on sanitation services and the health of the slum dwellers.