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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition
Title Achieving the sustainable development goals: a case study of the complexity of water quality health risks in Malawi
Volume 35
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
Page numbers 20
URL https://jhpn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41043-016-0057-x
Suppose 35 % of the households with children under 5 years of age in a low-income suburban neighborhood in a developing country have diarrhea where improved water sources are available. Clearly, something is amiss—but what? In addition to focusing on the need to examine water quality among water sources that meet the ‘improved’ category when assessing health risk, the relative importance of the range of transmission routes for diarrhea is unknown. In Malawi, relevant baseline data affecting human health are simply not available, and acquiring data is hampered by a lack of local analytical capacity for characterizing drinking water quality. The objective of this work is to develop a risk communication program with partnership among established regional development professionals for effectively meeting the sustainable development goals.

A field study was conducted in the city of Mzuzu, Malawi, to study water quality (total coliform and Escherichia coli) and human dimensions leading to development of a public health risk communication strategy in a peri-urban area. A structured household questionnaire was administered to adult residents of 51 households, encompassing 284 individuals, who were using the 30 monitored shallow wells.

The water quality data and human dimension questionnaire results were used to develop a household risk presentation. Sixty-seven percent and 50 % of well water and household drinking water samples, respectively, exceeded the WHO health guideline of zero detections of E. coli. Technology transfer was advanced by providing knowledge through household risk debriefing/education, establishing a water quality laboratory at the local university, and providing training to local technicians.

Communicating the science of water quality and health risks in developing countries requires sample collection and analysis by knowledgeable personnel trained in the sciences, compiling baseline data, and, ultimately, an effective risk presentation back to households to motivate behavioral changes to effectively protect future water resources and human health.

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