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Seasonal Environmental Hazards: A Multi-disciplinary Approach to the Analysis of Health Risks in Lower-income Countries

DEV Key Contact: Roger Few
Project Dates:  2007-2009
Project Status: Completed 2009



The project centred on development and field testing of a cross-disciplinary methodology, applied to analysis of disease risks associated with seasonal cycles in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. The project generated an integrated case study dataset combining information from environmental monitoring, health data and social analysis of health behaviour in 4 study sites within Long Xuyen city, An Giang province. The sites are affected annually by cycles of river flood and low-water conditions, and the study population mostly consists of low-income households potentially exposed to microbial contamination of water sources and the local environment, with possible heightened risk during seasonal extremes.

There were 4 phases of data collection in flood and dry seasons (starting with the flood peak in October 2007). Phases 1-4 involved microbial testing of stored water and surveys of self-reported health at 120 households. Phase 1 also involved a questionnaire survey on health perceptions and behaviour at the same 120 households. Phase 3 included additional semi-structured interviews on health behaviour with a sample of those households: questions covered the nature of hazards and attendant health risks, actions taken to respond to those risks, and barriers to effective health protection. During the course of the study there was also ongoing collation of statistics on health facility usage and monthly river height data.

In 2008, additional funding was secured from ESRC to deepen the social scientific analysis through a scenario-based qualitative methodology using hazard narratives. The technique has the potential to elicit more meaningful responses to questions about hazards that people are likely to have experienced periodically during their lives but that are not part of their everyday existence. (The method was tested both in the Mekong Delta study site in phase 4 and in field sites in south-east Mexico.)

DEV Researchers: Roger Few

Partner Organisations:

Centre for Research on Social Development & Poverty Reduction, Vietnam National University

Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia

School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Selected Outputs:

Few, R., Lake, I., Hunter, P.R., Pham Gia Tran and Vu Trong Thien (2009) ‘Seasonal hazards and health risks in lower-income countries: field testing a multi-disciplinary approach', Environmental Health 8 (Suppl 1): S16.  (doi:10.1186/1476-069X-8-S1-S16)