National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

US and Canada partner to invest $21 million for research hubs in developing countries

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The National Institutes of Health and other U.S. and Canadian partners are investing $20.9 million dollars over five years to establish seven regional research and training centers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) Hubs will consist of multidisciplinary groups of researchers and partner organizations collaborating on common research and training topics that address environmental and/or occupational health issues.

Pesticide use, household and outdoor air pollution, mining hazards and other occupational and environmental risk factors cause almost one quarter of the world’s deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The greatest burden of disease caused by these exposures occurs in LMICs, where there is limited capacity to study the links between these risk factors and illness. In addition, more than two million workers around the world die every year due to occupational injury or related ailments, costing the global economy billions of dollars, as reported by the International Labor Organization.

Each hub will be supported by a pair of five-year awards — one to an LMIC lead institution for research on key topics of regional importance and another to a U.S. institution to oversee relevant research training. The hubs are intended to become internationally recognized centers for the collection, management, synthesis and interpretation of data on environmental and occupational health. Together the seven hubs will form the GEOHealth Network, a platform to build research leadership in environmental and occupational health in LMICs, and foster the exchange of knowledge and use of evidence to inform policies.

NIH’s Fogarty International Center is coordinating and partially funding the awards, in collaboration with NIH partners, the National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Also providing support is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Canada’s International Development Research Centre is contributing to the funding of research led by LMIC scientists. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is also participating in the GEOHealth program by offering supplemental funding for research and training focused on household air pollution.

“We know that air and water pollution, pesticide exposure, climate change and other environmental and occupational risk factors contribute to the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases in LMICs,” said Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass. “These research hubs are designed to develop a critical mass of scientists who can discover how these exposures trigger diseases, identify effective interventions and spur policy changes that will improve health.”

The overall goals of the GEOHealth Hubs are to strengthen environmental and occupational health-related research collaborations, accelerate scientific infrastructure development, enhance research training, create relevant advanced educational curricula and outreach material, support research needed to address environmental and/or occupational exposures and inform nationally relevant policy development in LMICs.

A hub in India will focus on air pollution and developing the scientific expertise to study the unique characteristics of exposures in that country, while a center in Bangladesh will address household air pollution, climate change and occupational health in the garment worker industry. Another hub will be located in Peru to develop scientific capacity and support research on air pollution and climate change, including activities with scientists in the neighboring countries of Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile.

Neurotoxins related to mining and agricultural development and their impact on maternal and child health throughout the Caribbean will be examined from a hub based in Suriname. Meanwhile, scientists at a center in Thailand will investigate pesticides commonly used in agriculture across Southeast Asia to see if they act as endocrine disrupters, increasing the risk of metabolic syndrome and associated diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

A hub based in Ethiopia will develop spokes in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda to study air pollution, climate change and occupational health related to temperature. Finally, research and training in West Africa will focus on health threats from electronic waste, gold mining and transportation-related ambient air pollution, led from a center in Ghana.

2015 GEOHealth Hub Paired Awards

About the International Development Research Centre: Part of Canada’s foreign affairs and development efforts, IDRC invests in knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve lives and livelihoods in the developing world. Bringing together the right partners around opportunities for impact, IDRC builds leaders for today and tomorrow and helps drive change for those who need it most. For more information, visit www.idrc.ca .

About the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves: the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a public-private partnership hosted by the UN Foundation that seeks to: save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. For more information, visit www.cleancookstoves.org .

About the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, provides national and world leadership as the U.S. federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. For more information about NIOSH, visitwww.cdc.gov/niosh

The Fogarty International Center addresses global health challenges through innovative and collaborative research and training programs and supports and advances the NIH mission through international partnerships. For more information, visit www.fic.nih.gov.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of NIH. For more information on environmental health topics, visit www.niehs.nih.gov.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at www.cancer.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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