Ecohealth Chair on Urban Air Pollution and Non-Communicable Respiratory Diseases (West Africa)
Urban air pollution, indoors and outdoors, is a major worldwide health and environmental problem, particularly in Africa, where it is associated with economic activity, transportation, and the use of biomass for cooking. This problem is exacerbated by the rapid and uncontrolled growth of African cities. Worldwide, it causes more than 36 million deaths annually due to non-communicable diseases, including cardiorespiratory diseases, asthma, and bronco-pulmonary cancer. In West Africa in particular, air pollution is not given sufficient consideration in the development of policies to prevent these diseases. Significant knowledge gaps exist on the health effects of air pollution and its impact on lifestyle and climate change. To improve policies and practices, IDRC has been seeking to develop ecohealth research capacity in Africa and elsewhere in the world, focusing on various health and development issues. These efforts have led to the establishment of a community of practice in the region, the Communauté de pratique en écosanté de l'Afrique de l'Ouest et du Centre (COPES-AOC), and the institutionalization of ecosystem approaches to health in various higher education and research institutions. The latter has recently resulted in the creation of an inter-university doctoral program (Programme de doctorat interuniversitaire, PDI) in public health integrating health and environment, which has been adopted by five universities in the West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal. This ecohealth chair project builds on these achievements to promote the development of ecohealth through high-quality research focusing on urban air pollution and its impact on health within the context of climate change, while training a new generation of researchers and leaders through the PDI. The project will strengthen the existing institutional partnership in the region and foster an emerging international partnership, to provide the required ecohealth expertise and mobilize the necessary resources to ensure the sustainability of impacts and of the PDI.