26 November 2015

Boost for Health in Slums project

Many people living in slums fall victim to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other fatal lung diseases caused by household (indoor) air pollution. The majority of the victims are mothers and young children in that they are predominantly exposed to the smoke released from open fires during cooking. The Health in Slums project team, led by professors Onno van Schayck (Department of Family Medicine, Maastricht University) and Luc de Witte (Zuyd University of Applied Sciences), aim to find a solution for the problem together with the local population. A healthy solution, in the form of a cook stove that must fit the culture, values and be within the financial means of potential users, with a view to securing wide adaptation beforehand. 

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) clearly understands the significance of this project and its results. The team has already received several grants from NWO. NWO and the Dutch Technology Foundation STW recently awarded the team a EUR 200,000 grant. Prof. Onno van Schayck: ‘This will enable us to embark on the next stage of the project. The prototype of the cook stove will most likely see completion in the course of 2016. The grant funds will enable us to carry out tests and pay for a PhD candidate to work on the project locally’.

Many aspects of the project objectives tie in with those of the World Bank and the United Nations. The organisations, united in the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution installed a committee  (Global Commission on Pollution, Health and Development) and Prof. Van Schayck has been asked to participate as a scientist in this committee,  examining the effects of water, land and soil pollution on people's health. It has emerged that diseases caused by environmental pollution result in the loss of more human lives every year than any other cause. With input from its members - government ministers, scientists and even a Nobel laureate - the committee seeks to have national laws amended to universally improve people's health. The committee is to publish an article on this theme in the medical journal The Lancet in 2016.