USC receives grant for work in Ethiopia

USC received a $200,000 grant from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health to begin planning a new Global Environmental and Occupational Health hub in Ethiopia.

Along with Addis Ababa University’s School of Public Health, the Department of Preventative Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and the USC Institute of Global Health will spend the next two years working closely with their Ethiopian collaborators to plan a center that will investigate health problems stemming from environmental issues.

The National Institute of Health is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and gives out many research grants, whereas the Fogarty International Center specializes in partnering the U.S. and foreign countries to conduct research on global health.

Jonathan Samet, director of the USC Institute for Global Health, is a co-principal investigator for the project along with Professor Kiros Berhane, who is originally from Ethiopia. Samet said the team had “been looking to develop collaboration in Ethiopia,” partly because of Berhane’s roots.

The two have been applying for grants for about a year and a half now for funding to establish the first GEOHealth hub.

The next year will be spent making trips to Ethiopia to collaborators there, holding a workshop for stakeholders and identify what the high-priority projects are.

“By the middle of year one we will put together a grand proposal to establishing the full GEOHealth hub,” Berhane said.

In the second year of grant funding, the other three countries that are involved in the project — Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda — will be invited to help plan the hub.

“I think what’s unique about this is that[it is] … an initiative funded by the National Institute of Health that we hope will lead on to the development of a larger center,” Samet said.

Since the GEOHealth hub is still in early stages there are little opportunities for student involvement at the present moment, but organizers said this will soon change. Once up and running, the hub will provide opportunities for students in a variety of fields such as medicine and the sciences.

Berhane also emphasized that the hub will be very “interdisciplinary,” as it involves “experts from climate change, from the healths, from exposure assessment and from some engineering aspects,” and therefore it might appeal to a variety of students, not just ones at Keck.

Julie Paul, an undergraduate student majoring in Spanish, said she believes the health hub will benefit both students at USC and those in Ethiopia.

“As someone who wants to eventually go to medical school, I think this project would be a cool thing to be involved in in a few years, and also is great for the people in Ethiopia who it will benefit,” Paul said.