Household air pollution is a major cause of ill health, but few solutions have been effective to date. While many quantitative studies have been conducted, few have explored the lived experiences and perceptions of women who do the cooking, and as a result are those most exposed to household air pollution. In this study, we worked with groups of home cooks, and sought to use art as a means of engaging them in discussions of how household air pollution from cooking affects their lives. In the Terai district of southern Nepal, we held four focus groups that included 26 local women from urban and peri-urban areas, as well as six local artists. The women then met approximately weekly over four months, and produced images related to air pollution. Transcripts from the focus groups were reviewed independently by two authors, who initially categorised data deductively to pre-defined nodes, and subsequently inductively reviewed emergent themes. Women identified a number of health effects from air pollution. The main physical effects related to the eye and the respiratory system, and women and young children were seen as most vulnerable. The psychosocial effects of air pollution included reduced food intake by women and lethargy. Suggested solutions included modifications to the cooking process, changing the location of stoves, and increasing ventilation. The main barriers were financial. The lived experiences of women in southern Nepal around the problem of air pollution offers a more nuanced and context-specific understanding of the perceptions and challenges of addressing air pollution, which can be used to inform future interventions.
Keywords: Nepal; biomass; focus groups; household air pollution.