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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Massive Health Project in Rwanda Shows Early Success, Oregon/Portland Report

Oregon Health and Science University and Portland State University School of Public Health have announced preliminary results from one of the largest interventions of its kind in environmental health, showing water filters and high-efficiency cook stoves can significantly reduce deadly childhood illnesses in Rwanda.

Evan Thomas Rwanda

Oregon and Portland are among many partner organizations involved in the massive undertaking to distribute and monitor use of 100,000 water filters and 100,000 high-efficiency cook stoves to more than 460,000 people among the poorest 25 percentile of Rwandans. The program is funded and led by the social enterprise DelAgua Health and the Rwandan Ministry of Health, with researchers from Oregon and Portland, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health and the University of Rwanda.

Preliminary results of the aptly named “Tubeho Neza,” a Kinyarwanda phrase that means “Let Us Live Well,” demonstrate that a pilot campaign among 10,000 people running for over two years has reduced the odds of diarrhea in children under age five by 46 percent through the use of water filters and education, and a 28 percent decrease in child personal exposure to cook-stove emissions. Data also suggests that when households follow all guidance in use of the stoves, a 73 percent reduction in indoor air pollution can be achieved.

Dirty drinking water and pollution from indoor cook stoves endanger the lives of billions of people worldwide. They contribute to the leading causes of death among Rwandan children – 16 percent of child deaths are from acute lower respiratory disease and 9 percent from diarrhea. This project is among the first to evaluate the results on a large scale so that the best approaches can be expanded and accountable to both funders and recipients.

DelAgua Health and the Rwandan Ministry of Health started distributions of the cookstoves and water filters in 2012, outfitting a sample with a cellular reporting electronic sensor developed by researchers in Portland’s Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies Laboratory (SWEETLab). These sensors remotely monitor how such life-saving technologies are used and report this critical information over the cellular networks back to stakeholders.

“The SWEETLab sensors have been used to study the behavior of households, and improve how epidemiological studies are conducted, how households are surveys, and how estimates of impact are achieved. PSU has over 1,000 sensors in 15 countries around the world,” says Portland State Professor Dr. Evan Thomas.

SWEETLab’s electronic sensors, or “SWEETSense,” are cost effective to operate. They can be powered for up to a year batteries, and use existing mobile network infrastructure to transmit data.

The universities leading the research are expanding the study to directly evaluate health impacts with instrumentation, blood work, respiratory health, and clinical diagnosis. External partners and funders are sought for collaboration on this large-scale study.

A full briefing on these preliminary results is available at

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