ACS International: Engineering and Community Health students continue to battle disease in Ghana

Karen Kosinski

Since December of 2007, Tisch College has supported teams of Tufts students working in Adasawase, Ghana to design and develop a multi-use recreation facility that provides clean, parasite-free water to schoolchildren at risk of contracting schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis is a tropical disease spread by skin contact with water contaminated with human waste. The disease is not usually fatal, but causes significant morbidity. Affecting more than 207 million people a year, schistosomiasis is all too common among poor populations in Africa who do not have access to clean water.

While previous trips focused on the immediate needs of treating schistosomiasis and constructing a water recreation facility, this year’s trip, again supported by Tisch College’s Active Citizenship Summer (ACS) program, focused on ensuring the sustainability and effectiveness of the work.

Tufts students Quincy Moore ’10 and Ph.D. candidate Karen Kosinski assessed the effectiveness of the new recreation facility, considered new methods of preventing infection, and collaborated with Ghana Health Services to provide treatment to schoolchildren with schistosomiasis. Tufts graduate Anjuli Wagner ’09 traveled to Ghana in 2008 and 2009 and provided assistance from India where she also worked on research related to clean water.

Since most children Adasawase were treated for schistosomiasis in 2008 and 2009, the group focused on screening for re-infection, ensuring that new cases were not being left untreated, and on assessing the effectiveness of the water recreation area.

“We screened children in four different communities and then collaborated with nurses from Ghana Health Services and the District Education Office to treat children,” Kosinski, who is studying Civil and Environmental Engineering, explained. “We also created a map of disease prevalence by using handheld GPS units. The map will allow us to consider patterns of risk factors, in conjunction with behavioral observations.”

The researchers plan to continue their work in Ghana focusing on the prevention of schistosomiasis.

 “We have completed most of the work in the community where we have our strongest presence, Adasawase, but the disease is prevalent throughout the region and we are now planning to upscale our efforts in other, nearby communities.” Kosinski said. “We expect to continue the community-oriented research on schistosomiasis in Ghana for many years to come.”

Kosinski, who began working in Ghana when she arrived at Tufts to start her Ph.D. in 2006, has enjoyed already seeing results from the team’s research.

“The fact that the work is team-based, allows me to personally and directly interact with affected populations, and to achieve results over a short time makes it ideal,” she said.

Originally published September 2010