Understanding the impact of air pollution on children’s lungs in Kenya

The University of Portsmouth is a partner in a new project that aims to further understand the impact of air pollution on children’s lungs in Kenya.

Launched at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Nairobi, the project called TUPUMUE, or let’s breathe in Swahili, is a partnership between Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and KEMRI. It is jointly funded by the National Research Foundation of Kenya and the Medical Research Council of the UK.

The project – which will last three years – aims to generate new scientific knowledge about the early life course origins, burden, determinants, and prognostic significance of non-communicable lung disease in Nairobi, Kenya by studying the lung health of children and adolescents from two very different communities.

Our focus is on children and young adults aged 5 to 18 because this is the age at which lungs are developing and ill effects at this time of life can impact future health.

Jeremiah Chakaya, KEMRI Principal Investigator

KEMRI Principal Investigator Jeremiah Chakaya said: “Our focus is on children and young adults aged 5 to 18 because this is the age at which lungs are developing and ill effects at this time of life can impact future health. We will work in two areas: an informal settlement (Mukuru) and a wealthier area (Buruburu). These two areas are geographically very close but very different in terms of their socioeconomic make up.”

The University of Portsmouth’s contribution to the project will explore the use of  creative methods to help examine community knowledge about what damages lungs, and the lived experience of air pollution and lung health. The results of the study will be fed back to the two communities via the medium of theatre and other creative outlets such as comics and murals.

I’m so pleased that we have secured funding to continue the work of the AIR Network in Nairobi. Having spent a year or so working with the community in Mukuru to build trust and develop effective communication strategies, we will now apply these strategies to gather quantitative and qualitative data about the lung health of vulnerable populations.

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Senior Research Fellow

Dr Cressida Bowyer, a Senior Research Fellow in the University’s Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, is leading  Portsmouth’s contribution to the project. She said: “I’m so pleased that we have secured funding to continue the work of the AIR Network in Nairobi. Having spent a year or so working with the community in Mukuru to build trust and develop effective communication strategies, we will now apply these strategies to gather quantitative and qualitative data about the lung health of vulnerable populations. Our ultimate aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of those exposed to high levels of air pollution.”

Dr Bowyer is also part of the AIR Network, which is exploring new community-led approaches to tackle air pollution and its harmful effects in Sub-Saharan Africa. Next week (6 March at 1.30pm), Dr Bowyer will be appearing on a webinar hosted by the World Health Organisation for their Culture and Health series. The webinar will explore how cultural activities and interdisciplinary research can inform international, national and community-level policy responses to air pollution and health. It will also ask how communities living with the highest levels of air pollution – for example, those living in informal settlements – be involved in research and policy-making to improve air quality.

Our ultimate aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of those exposed to high levels of air pollution.

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Senior Research Fellow

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