Open Access Research article

Self-rated health among Mayan women participating in a randomised intervention trial reducing indoor air pollution in Guatemala

Esperanza Díaz1*, Nigel Bruce2, Dan Pope2, Anaité Díaz3, Kirk R Smith4 and Tone Smith-Sivertsen1

Author Affiliations

1 Department for Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, Norway

2 Division of Public Health, University of Liverpool, UK

3 Center for Health Studies, Del Valle de Guatemala University, Guatemala

4 Division of Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, USA

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BMC International Health and Human Rights 2008, 8:7  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-8-7

Published: 5 June 2008



Indoor air pollution (IAP) from solid fuels is a serious health problem in low-income countries that can be alleviated using improved stoves. Although women are the principal users, few studies have investigated the self-assessed impact of the stoves on their health and lives.


This study was conducted in rural highland Guatemala, involving 89 intervention and 80 control Mayan Indian young women (mean 27.8 years, SD 7.2). Outcomes were assessed after approximately 18 months use of the new stove. Our objectives were to compare self-rated health and change in health among women participating in a randomised control trial comparing a chimney stove with an open fire, to describe impacts on women's daily lives and their perceptions of how reduced kitchen smoke affects their own and their children's health.


On intention-to-treat analysis, 52.8% of intervention women reported improvement in health, compared to 23.8% of control women (p < 0.001). Among 84 intervention women who reported reduced kitchen smoke as an important change, 88% linked this to improvement in their own health, particularly for non-respiratory symptoms (for example eye discomfort, headache); 57% linked reduced smoke to improvement in their children's health, particularly sore eyes.


Women's perception of their health was improved, but although smoke reduction was valued, this was linked mainly with alleviation of non-respiratory symptoms like eye discomfort and headache. More focus on such symptoms may help in promoting demand for improved stoves and cleaner fuels, but education about more severe consequences of IAP exposure is also required.