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Spring Breaker: MLA Student heads to Peru for Population Health

MLA 2018 candidate Nicky Bloom has been named the landscape architect InterACTION Exchange Fellow and will spend her spring break in Iquitos, Peru to participate in our ongoing Population Health Initiative grant activities with the design team of Nancy Rottle, Coco Alarcon, Leann Andrews, Ben Spencer, Ken Yocom (remotely), and three Peruvian architects and engineers. 

Specifically, they’ll be designing a landscape intervention aimed at improving microbiome and human and ecological health for Claverito, an informal urban floating community on the Amazon River. Nicky will join a team of over 30 researchers and professionals from both UW and Peru representing ten different disciplines: dentistry, nursing, environmental health, environmental engineering, chemistry, biology, landscape architecture, civil engineering, global health and environmental science.

Sponsored by the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, this exchange will bring four UW students to Iquitos to work on the project as well as funding for two students to process the samples in the labs here at UW. The exchange will also bring two Peruvian students from the University of San Marcos to Seattle Seattle for skills training, cross-cultural exchange of ideas and technology transfer, fostering the international mobility of students from both participating institutions.

InterACTION Labs: Piloting an interdisciplinary built environment community health program with an informal settlement in the Peruvian Amazon

Joseph R. Zunt, Global Health, Neurology, Epidemiology, Medicine (Infectious Diseases)
Sarah Gimbel, Family and Child Nursing
Rebecca Neumann, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Peter Rabinowitz, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
Ana Lucia Seminario, Dentistry
Ben Spencer, Landscape Architecture

We propose to develop an interdisciplinary, action-oriented program – InterACTION Labs – to improve human and animal health, environmental resilience and social equity through participatory design, implementation and assessment of projects, processes and technologies in vulnerable communities. We will pilot the first InterACTION Lab in Claverito, Iquitos, Peru – an informal urban floating community living on the Amazon River.

The Lab will design and implement innovative interventions to improve the built and natural environments in Claverito and then assess for improvements in health by examining the “microbiome,” or flora, in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract of human and animal residents and the environment, alongside traditional measures of health (e.g., blood pressure, hemoglobin levels) to determine if these interventions can reduce exposure to harmful bacteria (e.g., Escherichia coli), parasites (e.g., Giardia lamblia), and metals (e.g., lead) that stunt growth and development of children and health of adults. Initial interventions will address community-defined challenges and will likely involve integrated productive gardens and floating pathways that clean water and soil, provide microhabitat, food and medicinal plants and carry future community services (e.g., electricity, water, sewer).

Our project will not only improve health conditions for the Claverito community, but also provide collaborative service learning opportunities for UW and Peruvian students and faculty, and contribute to knowledge about the influence of the built and natural environment upon the microbiome – a determinant of health. The InterACTION Lab in Claverito will inform future Labs in other vulnerable communities in Peru, the US, Washington and internationally.