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Toilets Are Not The Only Problem In India: Study

Update Date: Oct 12, 2014 12:38 AM EDT

Building toilets in rural India is not enough to improve public health, according to a new study. 

India is known to have world's worst sanitation record despite spending around $3 billion in the last 25 years. The country is now gearing up to spend 10 times that amount, as new Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes garbage and sanitation troubles a key issue for his first year in office, the press release added.

However, the new study noted that the country needs to look beyond building toilet infrastructure and also focus on educating the masses and changing centuries-old habits and people's preferences for doing their business outdoors. 

Researchers looked into the effects of a 2011 government sanitation campaign in 100 villages in the eastern state of Orissa and found no sign of improvement in childhood rates of diarrhea and parasitic worm infections.

Experts note that many of the 640 million Indians still defecating in the open might opt not to use a toilet, even if they had one at home, thanks to widespread preferences for going outside, according to the press release.

"Many respondents told us that defecating in the open provides them an opportunity to take a morning walk, see their fields, and take in the fresh air," the paper's authors wrote. "Many people regard open defecation as part of a wholesome, healthy, virtuous life."

The study was published in the journal The Lancet. 

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