Planning and Design for Public Health and Equity in India

Water sources in Maradu, India

By Alex Judelsohn

Published March 16, 2017

ACE is a testimony to the essential, yet challenging, nature of transdisciplinary work. By combining their skills and learning new languages...students viewed a problem from multiple dimensions instead of just one.

In the spring of 2016, 13 master’s students from architecture, urban and regional planning, environmental engineering and public health enrolled in a course to help develop a city sanitation plan for Maradu, India. Co-taught by Drs. Samina Raja (urban planning) and Korydon Smith (architecture), and in partnership with the Centre for Science and the Environment and the College of Engineering at Trivandrum, the group traveled to Maradu for three weeks in January 2016 to conduct preliminary fieldwork. As a teaching assistant along with Smitha Gopalakrishnan, I traveled to Maradu, to help facilitate the fieldwork portion of the studio.

In Maradu, students split into multidisciplinary teams to ensure their research and emergent proposals would satisfy concerns of diverse constituents: residents, municipal leaders, and engineering and public health professionals. In partnership with students from the College of Engineering at Trivandrum, they spent many long work days developing a survey, interviewing residents, diagramming homes and streets, and collecting available secondary data. I collaborated on survey design and worked closely with students from the College of Engineering at Trivandrum on interviewing skills. Additionally, I participated in data collection in one ward in Maradu.  

Back at UB, students began to tackle an immense amount of data and existing literature. Their end result, “Acting Collectively for Equity (ACE): Public Health Equity Through Improved Water, Sanitation, and Waste Management in Maradu, Kerala,” included 28 recommendations classified across five categories: data collections, waste water, fresh water supply, solid waste, and community-based initiatives. ACE is a testimony to the essential, yet challenging, nature of transdisciplinary work. By combining their skills and learning new languages (technical but also literal), the students viewed a problem from multiple dimensions instead of just one.

The Community for Global Health Equity enabled students to travel to Maradu, India. The aim of CGHE is to transform global health by developing distinct and educational programs that respond to the needs of global health leaders, organizations, and policy makers.