University Professor Training Public Health Professionals In Peru
and Chile About Environmental and Occupational Research
public health professor Howard Frumkin, M.D. has been awarded a five-year
grant for approximately $150,000 per year by the Fogarty International
Center at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to train health
professionals from Peru and Chile in environmental and occupational
In October 2001, Dr. Frumkin
began to establish and reinforce relationships with collaborators in
the two South American countries to identify research priorities and
distribute grant funding.
Environmental problems have
become common and serious in poor nations, even as the United States
has seen many improvements, Dr. Frumkin notes. In Peru and Chile, problems
include air pollution, mining waste, metal toxicity and urbanization.
Moreover, workplace hazards such as unguarded machinery and chemical
exposures create serious occupational health concerns. These problems
are heightened by shortages of technically trained personnel to recognize
hazards and enforce regulations, and the high cost or unavailability
of modern manufacturing and emissions control equipment.
"Environmental and occupational
health is a critical issue in these countries. Part of the solution
lies in training skilled local public health researchers and practitioners,
and another part lies in providing convincing data that document the
need for preventive measures," says Dr. Frumkin chairman of the department
of Environmental and Occupational Health, Emory University Rollins School
of Public Health. "Both approaches can help raise awareness, motivate
public policy and guide sound decisions. Emory has a strong track record
in international public health training. The close links we have with
a wide range of academic, government, and private sector groups will
greatly enhance the training we provide."
Dr. Frumkin will collaborate
with faculty from the University of Chile, the nation's leading research
institution, and the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), a
leading private university in Peru. The program will include research
training in Mexico and at Emory, financial support for on-site research
in Peru and Chile, and ongoing research collaboration.
Over the last two years,
the School of Public Health at the University of Chile has undergone
a modernization process that included the creation of a division of
environmental and occupational health (EOH).
Environmental hazards in
Chile, Dr. Frumkin says, are suspected to contribute to the nations'
disease burden. For example, poorly developed mining practices have
resulted in excessive emissions of contaminants and insufficient protection
of workers, nearby communities and the environment. Also of concern
are the physical conditions of working at high altitudes (up to 4,000
meters) with high levels of noise and stressful work schedules.
"The Chilean economy has
expanded rapidly in the past two decades," says Dr. Frumkin. "But unfortunately,
the expansion occurred without the development of environmental and
Like Chile, Peru also has
an extensive mining industry. The country faces challenges with water
pollution, air pollution and problems from the effects of lead and mercury.
"The Peruvian research priorities
include basic sanitary problems such as water-borne diseases and sewage
treatment," Dr. Frumkin says. "They are also concerned with the eight
million people, one third of the population, who live at altitudes above
2000 meters. "The effects of that kind of environment alone and in combination
with other environmental exposures are a high priority."
Chilean and Peruvian EOH
trainee applicants are currently submitting research proposals for Frumkin
and in-country faculty leaders to evaluate. Their proposals include
research on topics such as mine pollution and male hormonal function;
lead and neuropsychological function in gold miners and their families;
pediatric asthma and allergic diseases in Lima; and blood lead levels
in Lima transit police.
Once accepted, trainees will
participate in a directed sequence of activities designed to propel
them to successful, high-impact research on EOH in Chile and Peru, Dr.
First, formal academic training
will be provided at Mexico's National Institute of Public Health/School
of Public Health of Mexico, providing high quality, low cost education
conducted in the Spanish language. Second, trainees will participate
in a four- to six-month Bridge Fellowship at Emory, during which they
will develop research protocols, acquire specific additional skills
they need, form collaborative relationships with U.S. colleagues, and
pursue funding opportunities. Finally, trainees will return to Chile
and Peru for in-country research. Emory faculty and other U.S. investigators
will maintain long-term collaborations in this research.
"As the program achieves
initial success, we believe it will have an impact on environmental
and occupational health research on Peru and Chile's nearby South America
neighbors," Dr. Frumkin says. "Countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia and
Argentina face some of the same challenges as Chile and Peru."