|BUSPH Team Will Help Bolster Nicaragua's Occupational Health Research|
A team of researchers from BUSPH and a Nicaraguan university has been awarded a $200,000 grant to build a network of institutions in Nicaragua capable of research and training in occupational and environmental risks faced by farm workers and rural residents.
The two-year planning grant from the Fogarty International Center, part of the National Institutes of Health, stems from work that BUSPH researchers are doing to identify the causes of an epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD) among agriculture workers in Nicaragua. The team's hope is to create a cadre of researchers from Nicaragua and throughout Central America to address not only the CKD epidemic, but the broad range of health issues that face workers and communities in the region.
Daniel Brooks, associate professor of epidemiology and lead researcher on the project, said the new effort aims to boost the occupational health research capabilities for all of Central America. While it will be centered in Nicaragua, where BUSPH will partner with the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua at Leon, the project also will include partners from throughout Central America.
"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 project proposal says.
Among the project's goals is to engage multiple partners, identify priority areas of research and funding sources, and assist in the development of a PhD program at UNAN-Leon to increase the number of trained investigators in occupational and environmental health.
Brooks will work on the project with Michael McClean, associate professor of environmental health, and other researchers from BUSPH's departments of epidemiology and environmental health. The project is one of 16 similar efforts funded by Fogarty around the world as part of a new Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) program. The Center is awarding $3.2 million in two-year grants for activities in more than 15 countries. Each hub will be managed by a pair of institutions - one from the U.S. and one from the host country - tackling issues such as contaminated air and water and occupational risks.
A BUSPH team has been working in northwestern Nicaragua for more than two years to investigate the causes of the kidney disease epidemic, which has particularly affected workers at a sugar cane plantation, the region's largest employer. According to the Pan American Health Organization, the number of annual deaths from chronic kidney disease more than doubled in Nicaragua in a decade, from 466 in 2000 to 1,047 in 2010. The work to uncover causes is continuing.
Submitted by: Lisa Chedekel