USC, in partnership with Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, received a joint planning grant from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last month to establish a research and training hub focused on environmental and occupational health in East Africa.
The Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Institute for Global Health applied to the Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) program, an initiative overseen by the NIH to pair institutions in the United States and in low- or middle-income countries to plan research, training and curriculum development that addresses and informs health policy issues.
Health problems stemming from environmental and occupational hazards and climate change are escalating in East Africa, a region already challenged by malnutrition, poverty and infectious diseases. Pollution resulting from urbanization and industrialization is a growing concern.
Using the two-year $200,000 joint award, the Department of Preventive Medicine and Addis Ababa University’s School of Public Health will finalize plans for the establishment of a GEOHealth hub to investigate indoor and outdoor air quality, occupational health — with emphasis on agriculture — and climate change.
The project’s principal investigators include USC professor of biostatistics Kiros Berhane and Jonathan Samet, director of the USC Institute for Global Health and holder of the Flora L. Thornton Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine. A group of prominent experts from the USC-based Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center will also participate in the planning process.
The international partnership will strengthen current training, research and policymaking at Addis Ababa University, governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations in Ethiopia.
“In addition to improving efforts on the ground in Ethiopia, we’re uniting our universities’ resources with those of our East African partners to also reach Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda,” Samet said.
“This award positions USC, already an established environmental health research center, to enhance its presence internationally and to tackle global health issues that are becoming increasingly important in our interconnected world,” Berhane said.
Moving forward, the project will begin holding stakeholder workshops and assessing needs to refine the focus of the GEOHealth hub.