Willa Friedman (University of Houston)
"What Happens to Babies Born During Health-Worker Strikes?"
Health worker strikes are a growing but still under-studied phenomenon in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the past few years alone, health worker strikes limited service provision in more than 18 countries. We use panel data from Kenya linked with a newly compiled record of the timing and location of health-worker strikes to estimate the immediate impacts on the health and mortality of babies born during strikes. The timing of health-worker strikes is reasonably assumed to be exogenous with respect to women's prior decisions to become pregnant, and the panel of births lets us control for variation in unobservable factors across time and place. We find that babies born during strikes are less likely to have survived and are less likely to have received valuable early-life health inputs. We corroborate the main findings using a detailed panel survey, which includes verbal autopsies data, from two urban slums near two large health facilities with frequent strikes. In this analysis, we see similar mortality effects, and we see that these deaths are disproportionately driven by neonatal causes. This study further provides insights about the benefits of institutional births, as normally provided, in improving maternal and child outcomes.