Take a Deep Breath – Clean Air in the First 1000 Days of Life

Seed Funding to Assess and Improve Air Quality in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Adorable, 2011, Modified

Adorable, 2011, Modified

The Air Quality Ideas Lab

The problem of poor air quality during a child’s first 1000 days is complex and multi-faceted, requiring innovative and multi-disciplinary thinking to measure it, understand its consequences, and generate solutions. To address these challenges, UB’s Community for Global Health Equity (CGHE) will host a 3-day Ideas Lab.

An Ideas lab is a creative workshop designed to articulate, explore, and address a problem that may be outside of traditional fields of study. Such workshops have been employed by NSF and other funding agencies to bring together diverse scholars motivated to contribute individual expertise to a shared goal.  An IDEAS Lab approaches “big thinking” by giving interdisciplinary teams uninterrupted time and space to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to complex problems. The Air Quality Ideas Lab at UB will was hosted by Know Innovation, Inc., a leadership incubator, and provided a forum for UB researchers to think outside of the box, develop unexpected solutions with unlikely collaborators, and compete for up to $50,000 of seed funding, awarded by the Community for Global Health Equity.   

The Importance of Air Quality

According to the World Health Organization, only 1 in 10 people breathe safe air, and air pollution is on the rise.  Poor air quality, a silent killer, initiates chronic health problems and causes early deaths.  It also has detrimental effects on fetal and postnatal growth and development.  Despite decades of efforts to improve air quality, around the world, particularly in LMIC, pregnant women and young children continue to breathe polluted air.  For many, inadequate air quality is inescapable, with exposure occurring consistently during everyday indoor and outdoor tasks. In LMIC, the people most likely to breathe poor-quality air are also those who experience hunger, malnutrition, infectious disease, conflict, and natural disasters.  In these most affected areas, the problem of air pollution is intractable, even as consequences for young children and other vulnerable groups are acknowledged.  This pernicious health inequity is obviously unacceptable, but meaningfully addressing it requires bright minds willing to work together in a search of inventive solutions. 

2017 Air Quality Ideas Lab Awardee

8/17/18
Household air pollution causes nearly four million premature deaths per year, primarily among poor women and children in low- and middle-income countries (Rosenthal et al., 2017Lim et al. 2012). Transitions away from solid fuels improve indoor air quality, directly benefiting the health of women and children in the first two years of life. It remains unclear how to catalyze widespread and sustained fuel transitions, despite countless fuel transition case studies at the local level. This proposal will use mixed methods to identify enabling environments for household fuel transitions by examining both successful and unsuccessful transition attempts.