The goal of this project is to conduct a needs and opportunities assessment, and other exploratory activities, in order to plan the development of the West Africa Hub for Environmental and Occupational Health. This multidisciplinary Global Environmental and Occupational Health Hub (GEOHealth Hub) will be developed at, and led by, the University of The Gambia in partnership with the University of Iowa. This Hub will be connected to other research and training institutions and agencies within The Gambia (internal spokes) and to institutions located throughout the fifteen-country West Africa sub-region (external spokes). It will be supported by several research and training centers at the University of Iowa and by institutions in several other high- and middle-income countries. With the assistance of the West Africa Health Organization, we will establish collaborative relationships among these various partners to develop a plan for a GEOHealth Hub centered in The Gambia to best meet the needs for research, research training, and curriculum development in the West Africa sub-region. The general focal area of this project will be rural health, which has been the unifying theme of the collaborations between the two primary consortium members for the last eleven years. Specific focal areas will be more clearly delineated by this project, but the most pressing rural health issues in the sub-region appear to be: water quality, workplace safety (especially agricultural work), agricultural health (especially pesticides), toxic waste (especially dumping), and disaster preparedness and response. Methods will include: (1) contacting all relevant academic institutions, NGOs, and government agencies in the 15-country West Africa sub-region to assess their potential for expanded regional collaborations;(2) constructing a data base of environmental and occupational injuries and illnesses, relevant regulations and policies, and published research manuscripts and reports;and (3) convening a sub-regional consensus workshop to organize network partners to address sub-regional needs, refine focal areas which are most in need of research and training, and identify activities for building research capacities in the selected focl areas.
This proposed project is directed at improving health in the West Africa sub-region, which contains 11 of the least developed countries in the world. A GEOHealth Hub in this region would provide unique opportunities to study the effects of climate change, water pollution, air pollution, pesticide exposure, waste management, work practices and similar health risks, and interventions to prevent, control, and eliminate them.