Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 67% percent of its workforce engaged in the informal economy, consisting of the self-employed (excluding professionals and technicians), workplaces with <5 employees, unpaid family members who work at home or at small enterprises, and workers who are hired for only sporadic work in the formal sector, with no legal right to be rehired and no access to social benefits, such as social security and pensions. One-third of the workforce is engaged in agriculture, with >80% meeting the definition of informal employment. Workers in agriculture and the informal sector face serious occupational and environmental, health hazards, and the structures currently in place are inadequate to identify, monitor, and respond to these problems. The Center for Research on Health, Work and Environment (CISTA) at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua at Leon (UNAN-Leon) and the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) propose to partner to build a network of institutions (academic, governmental, and other) capable of carrying out a research and training that will inform public policy to address occupational and environmental risks faced by workers in agriculture and the informal economy and, more broadly, by rural residents. This network, called a Global Environmental and Occupational Health Hub (GEOHealth Hub), will be centered in Nicaragua, but will also include partners from throughout Central America, as well as the U.S. and other high income countries. The goal of this two-year grant is to develop a viable and sustainable plan for the GEOHealth Hub, obtain commitments from partners, and put a structure in place that can conduct some activities immediately and also obtain funding for larger projects. We will meet this goal by conducting a needs and opportunity assessment;identifying and engaging partners in the planning process;identifying phority areas of research, specifying hypotheses, designing a research plan, and collecting preliminary data;identifying potential funding sources;assessing training needs of partners to build capacity;and providing input into the development of a PhD program at UNAN-Leon to increase the number of highly trained investigators in occupational and environmental health.
TO HUMAN HEALTH (provided by applicant): Residents of Nicaragua who work in agriculture and the informal sector face many occupational and environmental health hazards, and resources to address these problems are currently very limited. This grant will allow a U.S. and Nicaraguan university to jointly lay the groundwork for building an integrated network of Nicaraguan institutions that will be able to provide training and conduct research to improve the health of the nation's citizens.