Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sustainable water-quality projects in Ghana and Peru receive U-M funding

The Graham Sustainability Institute and the Center for Global Health are co-sponsoring two research projects addressing water-quality impacts on public health, one in Ghana and the other in Peru.

Each of the projects, which are called integrated assessments, will receive $350,000 over the next three years.


A man pans for gold at a mining community in Ghana. For more information about the integrated assessments go to the Graham Institute website, or call Integrated Assessment Director John Callewaert at 734-615-3752. (Photo by Elisha Renne)


The first research project, "Water sustainability, infrastructural inequity, and health in small-scale gold mining communities in Ghana," will identify alternatives in resource-limited settings in Ghana that allow gold mining to occur in a manner that is safe for environmental and human health without decreasing economic prosperity.

The integrated assessment team will work with stakeholders to develop solutions for water-related problems associated with small-scale gold mining that are inexpensive, sustainable, low-tech, health-promoting, and socially acceptable.

The research team includes Niladri Basu, assistant professor of environmental health sciences, School of Public Health; Elisha Renne, professor of anthropology and Afroamerican and African studies, LSA; Tom Robbins, professor of environmental health sciences, SPH; and Mark Wilson, professor of epidemiology, SPH, and ecology and evolutionary biology, LSA.

The second project is titled "Gastric cancer and Helicobacter pylori infection in Lima, Peru: the role of water contamination." Studies suggest that drinking water in Lima, Peru, may be contaminated by H. pylori bacteria, a causative agent of gastric carcinoma. The goal of this integrated assessment is to establish strong scientific evidence supporting the direct linkage between drinking-water contamination by H. pylori and human gastric infection, and to evaluate effective ways to provide clean and safe drinking water to combat these infections in developing countries.

The U-M research team includes Chuanwu Xi, assistant professor of environmental health sciences, SPH; Manuel Valdivieso, clinical professor of internal medicine, Medical School; and Lu Wang, assistant professor of biostatistics, SPH.

"We view these projects as an opportunity to make long-lasting contributions to economic progress, environmental preservation and improved health both in the developed world and in regions of low and middle resources," says Howard Hu, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. "Ultimately, while these integrated assessments will analyze policy options and improve decision making in Ghana and Peru, the challenges and strategies from two global settings can be used to enlighten our thinking about areas addressing similar issues."

Sofia D. Merajver, director of the Center for Global Health and professor of internal medicine, Medical School, and professor of epidemiology, SPH, elaborated on the importance of this work.

"These research projects exemplify excellent opportunities for multidisciplinary work to uncover new ways of analyzing complex environmental systems and uncovering novel strategic solutions," Merajver says. "At the Center for Global Health, we are proud to partner with the Graham Institute to help make this work possible."

Don Scavia, director of the Graham Institute and special counsel to the U-M president on sustainability, says that — given the complexity of these projects — "the integrated assessment process is ideally suited to bring the right science and partners to the table to effectively address issues of sustainability and global health."