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A Volunteer-Led Effort Linking Research to Development Practice to Promote Safe Water and Hygiene in Slums in India

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Haath Mein Sehat (HMS) is a student-led project bridging students from the US and India to improve health through community-based hygiene education and provision of safe water through point-of-use treatment in slums in Mumbai and Hubli, India. The activities of the organization directly link research to development practice. HMS has a volunteer-led approach, with college students from the US and India implementing the hygiene education curriculum developed by the HMS team and conducting routine water quality testing in the target communities. The project activities are complemented by active research by HMS members in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs implemented and provide feedback for improvement. During the summer of 2008, an epidemiological study was launched to assess the health impact of the HMS hygiene education program, with baseline data gathered on 400 households regarding hygiene knowledge and behavior, quality of stored water, prevalence of diarrheal disease in children under the age of five, and medical expenditures related to diarrhea. Preliminary data from the study suggest that childhood diarrhea is a major problem in the study community, and it is perceived as a serious health risk by participants while consumption of contaminated water is not recognized as a major risk factor. Boiling and cloth filters emerge as the treatment methods of choice. An ongoing longitudinal water quality study in two different slums shows that there are seasonal variations in water quality parameters, with the worst quality occurring during the monsoon season. The results of these studies will be used to inform and revise the hygiene education program and select appropriate water treatment technologies to promote as well as plan future environmental health interventions for slums in Mumbai and Hubli.
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Keywords: Behavior Change; Diarrhea; Drinking Water; Hygiene Education; India; Point-of-Use; Urban Health

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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