Iliana Kohler

Practice Associate Professor; Associate Director | Population Studies

Dr. Kohler is a social demographer interested in the demographic, health, and social aspects of aging in low and middle-income contexts. Her approach to study global health, aging, and mortality is based on the life-course perspective. In several projects and publications her research documents the long legacy of early childhood factors on health outcomes in late life in different contexts. Dr. Kohler is leading a portfolio of research projects that critically evaluates social, demographic, and epidemiological theories of aging outside the realm of the transitional aging studies that are focused on upper-middle-income and high-income contexts. Dr. Kohler is also the Associate Director of the Population Studies Center (PSC) at the University of Pennsylvania, LDI Senior Fellow and is also a Scholar of the Center for Global Health, UPenn.

Selected Publications

Alberto CiancioFabrice KämpfenHans-Peter KohlerIliana Kohler

(2021) Health screening for emerging non-communicable disease burdens among the global poor: Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa, Journal of Health Economics, Volume 75

PDRI affiliates Hans-Peter Kohler and Iliana Kohler recently co-authored a study, published in the Journal of Health Economics that investigates the effectiveness of health screenings to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases in Malawi.

Evidence for the effectiveness of population health screenings to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases in low-income countries remains very limited. We investigate the sustained effects of a health screening in Malawi where individuals received a referral letter if they had elevated blood pressure. Using a regression discontinuity design and a matching estimator, we find that receiving a referral letter reduced blood pressure and the probability of being hypertensive by about 22 percentage points four years later.

These lasting effects are explained by a 20 percentage point increase in the probability of being diagnosed with hypertension. There is also evidence of an increase in the uptake of medication, while we do not identify improvements in hypertension-related knowledge or risk behaviors. On the contrary, we find an increase in sugar intake and a decrease in physical activity both of which are considered risky behaviors in Western contexts.

The health screening had some positive effects on mental health. Overall, this study suggests that population-based hypertension screening interventions are an effective tool to improve health in low-income contexts.