The Limits of Health and Nutrition Education: Evidence from Three Randomized Controlled Trials in Rural China

In this paper we present new evidence on the impact of health and nutrition information on anemia rates from three large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in rural China. Each RCT studies a different type of health education campaign designed in partnership with the Chinese government to reduce the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia among rural primary school students. These campaigns include single and multiple face-to-face education sessions for parents at their children’s schools as well as dissemination of written health education materials. Across all three studies, we find little evidence of changes in blood hemoglobin concentration or anemia status. In contrast, in our two studies that also examined a multivitamin supplementation intervention, we find meaningful reductions in anemia.