Graham Sustainability Institute

U-M Funds Sustainable Water-Quality Projects in Ghana and Peru

Monday, March 19, 2012

The University of Michigan's 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.

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, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health; Elisha Renne, a professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies and the Department of Anthropology; Tom Robbins, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health; and Mark Wilson, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health.

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 at the School of Public Health; Manuel Valdivieso, clinical professor of internal medicine at the Medical School; and Lu Wang, assistant professor of biostatistics at the School of Public Health.

"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," said Howard Hu, 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, 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 said. "At the Center for Global Health, we are proud to partner with the Graham Institute to help make this work possible."

These two international research projects build on existing work by U-M faculty to provide innovativ e options for development, global health equity and sustainability. The two new projects also take advantage of the integrated assessment research methodology, which has two phases. Researchers begin with a dialog among scientists and policymakers to establish a key policy question around which the assessment is to be developed. After this is established, researchers then gather and assess natural science and social science information to evaluate options for policymakers to answer that question.

Don Scavia, director of the Graham Institute and special counsel to the U-M president on sustainability, noted 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."

To learn more about integrated assessment, visit the "Problem Solving" section of the Graham Institute website at or Integrated Assessment Director John Callewaert at (734) 615-3752.