“A new World Bank report, Risking your Health: Causes, Consequences and Interventions to Prevent Risky Behaviors, warns that risky behaviors are increasingly prevalent globally, particularly in developing countries, and constitute a growing threat to the health of individuals and their populations. The report looks at how individual choices that led to five risky behaviors –smoking, using illicit drugs, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets, and risky sex— are formed, and then uses empirical evidence to examine what works and what doesn’t. Legislation and taxation, for example, tend to be effective, especially when combined with strong enforcement mechanisms. Cash transfers also have proven to be promising in some settings. Behavior change campaigns, such as school-based sex education and calorie labeling laws, are often less effective on their own. Engaging in risky behaviors, according to the report, exerts a significant toll on the individual’s productivity in the long run. Society also loses as immediate peers of those who engage in risky behaviors also experience declines in their productivity. Children are at particular risk, for example if they have to stop schooling due to a sick parent or if development of their cognitive abilities is compromised due to early exposure to harmful substances.”
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