African SNOWS: strengthening research capacity in environmental health.

Project Details


The African SNOWS (Scientists Networked for Outcomes from Water and Sanitation) Consortium takes its inspiration from Dr John Snow, who not only founded the science of epidemiology but was also the father of evidence-based interventions for environmental health. He famously prevented cholera in 19th century London by taking something away and changing behaviour (removing a pump handle to prevent its use) as he lacked the funds to provide something, like a better water supply. Ever since then, environmental health has lacked its fair share of resources, and environmental health practitioners have had to use all their creative ingenuity to achieve challenging goals such as behaviour change, as cheaply as possible. Environmental health research has also suffered, particularly in Africa where resources are as scarce as anywhere. At the start of 2008, the International Year of Sanitation, nearly two thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa are still without a toilet,and a recent study (World Bank 2008) has estimated that the cost of poor environmental health in child diarrhoea and associated malnutrition amounts tosome 8% of the GDP of an African country. This consortium seeks to begin to redress the balance, by taking advantage of the Wellcome Trust's call for proposals to strengthen health-related research capacity in Africa. Interdisciplinary research into action. The long-term objective of the consortium is to build sustainable capacity in research that leads to improvedpublic health by improving water supply, sanitation and hygiene. We aim to enable African researchers to conduct policy-relevant research on the health impact of environmental interventions, and on how these interventions can be implemented most effectively and taken to scale. We shall do this by building research capacity within the interdisciplinary areas between engineering, epidemiology, environmental microbiology and behavioural sciences, rather thanin water resources or sanitary engineering as such. Key factors (culture, gender, age, perception of disease risk etc.) that motivate or inhibit the sustainable use of sanitary services will also be studied. The sphere of interest will also include problems in situations of stress such as floods, droughts and refugee settings. We will create a sustainable community of active African researchers in durable and enabling institutions by: -Carrying out a participatory needs assessment for individual and institutional capacity-building. -Awarding up to 30 PhD scholarships to outstanding African students, adapting the highly successful Gates Partnership model to our sector's needs. -Promoting research-oriented modules for suitable Master's courses, and the capacity to offer relevant short courses, at African universities which are leaders in our field. -Developing dialogue and collaboration with implementing agencies in the field, to ensure that our research addresses real problems and benefits from stakeholder support, and that our results are applied in practice. -Supporting linked interdisciplinarymulti-centre practically-oriented research projects. -Establishing common field platforms for research from multiple perspectives. -Ensuring continuity of support for post-doctoral and other staff research. -Building and sustaining institutional capacity to manage and conduct research.
Effective start/end date1/12/0930/06/16


  • Wellcome Trust


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