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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

UNC: Public Health Students Cross International and Disciplinary Borders in the Galápagos

Over the summer, students and faculty from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health joined forces with students from Universidad San Francisco de Quito to conduct a study in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. The group piloted an investigation among households on Isabela Island to evaluate health, water quality and community perceptions of water and food insecurity.

Students with backgrounds ranging from nutrition and environmental health to anthropology and biostatistics collected various types of data from households across the island.

Some group members analyzed tap and drinking water samples to measure total coliforms, E. coli, salinity levels and heavy metals. Others implemented household surveys, collecting data on basic health measures and food availability. Still more students gathered anthropometry measurements and key biomarkers in order to assess health outcomes.

The Isabela study was carried out in response island residents’ concerns. Community members shared their worries about the impacts of their water quality on their day-to-day health. After spending three weeks gathering data to inform this question, the students are back in the United States and are hoping that their work with the municipality will ultimately improve the water quality provided to island inhabitants.

“We recognize that improved water is what everyone wants, from the municipal officials to individual residents,” said Mr. Kristopher Nicholas, a doctoral student of nutrition. “The next step is the hardest part: Figuring out how best to pair science with policy to navigate local customs, respect for community desires, and local officials’ budgets and funding. We have a great team with lots of Ecuadorian experts, so we’re optimistic!”

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