The Water and Health in Limpopo (WHIL) Innovations fellowship program will provide cross-disciplinary training in global health innovation to twelve post-doctoral fellows, six from the United States and six from rural Southern Africa, over the next five years. The program will focus on the closely related issues of poor access to water and sanitation in rural areas of Southern Africa and unacceptably high rates of morbidity and mortality associated with early childhood diarrhea. The nearly decade old collaboration between the University of Virginia (UVa) and the University of Venda, South Africa that will host this program is led by the internationally-recognized global health leader and early childhood diarrhea (ECD) specialist, Dr. Richard Guerrant, at UVa, and by Dr. Pascal Bessong, UNIVEN Professor and Chair of Microbiology. The collaboration is supported by a multi-disciplinary group of faculty from both institutions with particular expertise in enteric disease, rural water purification strategies, rural nursing, community planning, agent- based modeling, child development, cross-cultural ethnography, and South African law related to water and human rights. This group has formed over the past four years and has developed protocols and strategies for trans-disciplinary and trans-oceanic coordination, scholarship, and training. The WHIL Innovations fellowship will provide promising doctorally-prepared potential global health leaders from the US and Southern Africa with the opportunity to participate in mentored global health research and education training with a particular focus on access to and quality of water and ECD. Major objectives of the training program are: (1) To build skills necessary to engage in innovative global health research collaborations including specific tailored training in community engagement, rural water management, measurement of impacts of ECD, simulation modeling in global health, trans-disciplinary collaboration, global health research ethics, project management, and laboratory management;(2) To conduct an innovative, mentored global health research project in the context of the multi-disciplinary WHIL program;and (3) To develop a portfolio of research and training outputs that will serve as a framework from which to develop individual efforts and as a resource for future fellows and other trainees. We plan to recruit fellows from many disciplines and expect to attract outstanding candidates thanks to our well-established and diverse faculty training group. We expect that our trainees will contribute meaningful new research relating to rural water and sanitation provision and ECD in the context of the WHIL program. More importantly, we will ensure that they are prepared to think with innovative pragmatism about these issues meaning that, as they develop exciting new interventions, processes and policies, they will anticipate and incorporate questions of community acceptability, efficacy, affordability, accessibility, and scalability.
Researchers, policy makers, and community members have struggled for decades in rural, resource- limited communities to develop and implement effective and sustainable strategies to decrease early childhood diarrhea (ECD) through the improvement of water and sanitation. The Water and Health in Limpopo (WHIL) Innovations Fellowship will provide mentored post-doctoral training in collaborative research and research implementation targeted at accelerating the development of sustainable strategies to reduce the devastating costs of ECD.
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