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A novel method using GPS and Accelerometer devices to pin-point open defecation: a pilot study in rural Lao PDR

Authors: Hongwei Jiang, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature , Daniel Yonto*, University of North Carolina - Charlotte, Lin Lin, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University
Topics: Asia, Human-Environment Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: Open Defecation, Lao PDR
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Open Defecation (OD) is a crucial public health issue in developing countries. Despite the World Health Organization and local governments improving sanitation services (building public/private toilets) and advocating health education, OD remains a common practice, especially in rural areas. To control OD behavior, it is critical to understand where, who, and why people practice OD. However, due to private issues, most of open defecation surveys are conducted by self-reported questionnaire, which lack reliability and location information. To fill this gap, the authors developed an OD survey method using portable GPS and accelerometer devices, combined with a self-reported defecation survey in one village in central Lao PDR. Four waves of data collection (n = 48, adults aged 18-64) spanned seven consecutive days in June 2010, Sept. 2010, Dec., 2010 and March, 2011, respectively. Each participant was asked to wear a portable GPS and accelerometer device and self-report their defecation time. With accelerometer records, we could identify movements such as squatting, resting, and standing back up, and then cross-reference with self-reported defecation time. Corresponding time stamps between accelerometer and GPS, OD could be pin-pointed. The resulting triangulation data showed that males practice OD behavior more frequently and spatially more dispersed than their female counterparts. The new OD survey method enhances the reliability of OD data and provides precise location information without infringing participants’ privacy.

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