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Water's impact on global health

n September of 1854, as a deadly cholera epidemic was sweeping through London, scientist John Snow began mapping the outbreak of new cases. He noticed an interesting cluster of 500 cases contracted near a public pump at Broad and Cambridge Streets in the SoHo District. Snow's hypothesis that contaminated water from the pump was causing the disease was confirmed when he removed the pump handle and the epidemic abated.
     It has been 150 years since Snow's use of epidemiology to save lives, but these 150 years later, we are still experiencing the devastating health effects of drinking contaminated water. More than 1 billion people in our world lack access to safe water and 2.4 billion lack adequate sanitation, taking a devastation toll on global health. Despite the efforts of governments, international nonprofit agencies, and private organizations, the problem persists.
     Underlying the lack of safe water are poverty and inequality. Our public health programs require concomitant attention to economic development. Likewise, our programs will fail if they lack comprehensiveness. They need multiple approaches—from digging wells to providing point-of-use strategies to educating people in the developing world on hygiene and health. Finally, our efforts need a coalition of partners to bring multidisciplinary, diverse perspectives working together to get fresh ideas and literal water flowing to all people.
     At the Rollins School of Public Health, a new Center for Global Safe Water is drawing talent and support for global water safety from across Emory University and government and private organizations. Center faculty members are engaged in applied research that can make a differece in the quality of water and its effect on health. Partnerships with CDC, CARE, Population Services International, the Rotary Club of Atlanta, and others are getting our findings, expertise, and evaluations to train the next generation of water researchers and policy makers through our Global Environmental Health program.
     The pledge of two new chairs in water and sanitation by Eugene J. Gangarosa, professor emeritus of international health and former director of Emory's Public Health Program, and his wife, Rose Salamone Gangarosa, is contributing to the synergy building around safe water issues at the school. These chairs will nurture our collaborative efforts in safe water and sanitation and enrich the education of students in international potential in this important area. Gifts, teamwork, knowledge, evaluation—together they'll create momentum to answer this core public health challenge.



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