One Fellowship, Untold Good

Hand Washing and Public Health.

Lavanya Krishnan (left) on a soap distribution stop.

We turn the tap and out flows water that’s safe to drink. After working in the village of Goanpura near the city of Patna in Bihar State in India, Lavanya Krishnan is staggered by what we take for granted.

Lavanya is a UB master of public health student who grew up in Toronto. In early fall 2011 she attended a talk by Arthur Goshin, SPHHP’s director of global health initiatives, about the work his Healthy World Foundation is doing in Goanpura in partnership with NIDAN, an Indian foundation addressing the needs of the poor and the deprived.

She wanted to know more. Goshin offered to put her on the ground in Goanpura— he personally funds fellowships for MPH students who want to see international public health issues firsthand. That October, Lavanya landed in Patna.

Her assignment was to observe conditions in the village of 372 households and make recommendations for appropriate and sustainable interventions based on a recent health survey. The biggest health problem in the village is diarrheal disease—poor sanitation is the main culprit.

Lavanya ensconced herself in NIDAN’s office in Patna. She was driven back and forth to the village on a motorbike. In the village she saw the sorry condition of hand pumps supplying most of the villagers’ water, set in undrained ground crossed by people and livestock alike. She met older persons, young women, laborers, school children.

With her NIDAN colleagues, and a donation of 1,200 bars of soap to distribute, Lavanya organized a hand-washing education campaign—after toilet, before preparing food, before eating. Her final report recommended more handwashing education and solar disinfection of water, a simple and inexpensive technology.

Her takeaway? “I want to use my knowledge and skills to help people who don’t have anything at all.”