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Chennai, India

Site Institution: Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research (SRIHER)
U.S. Institution: UC Berkeley
Research Areas: Environment Health, Air Pollution

Site Description:
The Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research SRIHER), Chennai, is a leading medical university in India with faculties of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, allied health sciences, biomedical sciences, nursing and physiotherapy functioning within a single campus. A 1000 bedded super-specialty hospital and an elaborate infrastructure for classrooms and laboratories support the administration of more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across the various faculties. A network of sophisticated research laboratories provides world class facilities for engagement in clinical, bio medical and public health research.

This site will emphasize training in environmental health, focused on the impact of indoor air pollution, and cleaner household fuel alternatives on respiratory diseases and other health outcomes. Indian census data indicates the slum population will surge to 109 million by 2017, or around 9% of the total population of 1.28 billion on that year. Most of these homes are likely to use of biomass fuels for household energy, generating levels of household air pollution that have been associated with acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and with infant premature deaths as well as contributing substantially to ambient air pollution. The collaboration between the Environmental Health Sciences at Berkeley, and the Department of Environmental Health Engineering, SRMC-RI(DU) over the past 15 years has produced achievements in academic infrastructure, training, exchange, and research findings. SRU launched in 2010 the first master’s program in public health for occupational and environmental health in South Asia with direct support from a grant of the NIH FIC International Training and Research in Occupational and Environmental Health, which also provided support for SRMC-RI(DU) faculty and postdoctoral researchers to receive mentorship and training from UC Berkeley. SRMC-RI(DU) has also become the leader for Indian national and regional assessments of household pollution and health outcomes. It is positioned to provide field experience to U.S. candidates in multiple sites throughout India to be trained in and promote air pollution assessments and public health interventions to improve slum health.

The Department of Health Engineering (EHE), at SRIHER has established itself as an eminent global environmental health research group with accreditations as a WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training in Occupational and Environmental Health and a Center for Advanced Research in Environmental Health (Air Pollution) for the Indian Council of Medical Research Government of India. With a network of more than 40 institutional collaborators that include numerous US, European and Indian universities, governmental and non-governmental research institutions, the faculty at EHE has been involved in numerous national and global research and training efforts in the areas of air pollution epidemiology, exposure assessment, environmental chemistry and environmental/occupational medicine. Most notably, support from the Fogarty International Center, NIH and a decade long collaboration with University of California, Berkeley resulted in extensive capacity building at SRIHER for undertaking air pollution and health effects research in LMIC settings. An important outcome of this collaboration was also the development of a full-fledged MPH program in Occupational and Environmental Health, one of the few such offerings available in India. With nine faculty members, 40 research staff members and two administrative assistants, the group has some of the most extensive human and laboratory resources for research and training in multiple domains of occupational and environmental health.

Faculty at EHE-SRIHER has a long history of collaboration with governmental agencies including the State and Central Pollution Control Boards (in charge of ambient air quality monitoring/regulation), Directorate of Public Health and the National Rural Health Mission Offices. These have been valuable in facilitating access to available secondary data, granting of relevant permissions and approvals as well as facilitating interactions with communities through their network of village level social workers. Faulty have also been engaged in interactions with Central and State Ministries as part of expert groups involved with air quality actions. The collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research has been very central for the engagement of the EHE-SRIHER team in identified national priority areas of environmental health research that has included household air pollution research. Finally, as a WHO Collaborating Center, EHE-SRIHER is engaged in numerous capacity building efforts to administer training to a wide network of professionals within academic/research organizations and industry.

A well-established academic/research infrastructure together with a proven track record of engagement in national/global inter-institutional linkages at SRIHER provides an excellent scientific environment for investigators on this application to undertake complex population level assessments.