What has been accomplished on the project under the reporting period?
The Michigan-West Africa GEOHealth CHARTER II is a multi-national, multi-institution project which focuses on building a hub to be distributed between Anglophone side (based in University of Ghana) and Francophone side (based in University of Abommey, Calavi (UAC) in Benin). Such a multi-national and multi-institutional project requires careful planning in terms of distribution of resources and responsibilities. Since issue of the notices of award by funders in late 2015, project partners have therefore engaged in several weekly Skype and in-person meetings to agree on dollars available to each partner institution. The first weekly Skype meeting was held on January 13, 2016. On December 15, 2016, three (3) of the project partners attended the virtual inaugural grantees’ meeting which was organized by funders and in January 2016, University of Ghana Institutional Review Board approved the ethical application of the U01 research protocol.
Following a number of the Skype conference meetings, a date was agreed upon for the first in-person project pre-inception meeting which took place on February 14-16, 2016 in Accra. . The meeting brought together hub’s key leaders and the two PIs of the paired grant where members were updated on the funder (NIH/FIC)-required revisions of the U01 research plans. During this in-person meeting, roles and responsibilities relating to the conduct and execution of the U01 research specific objectives for each participating partner institution were clarified. The in-person meeting also afforded project partners, the opportunity to visit the Agbogbloshie e-waste dumpsite where the research will be conducted.
The meeting also afforded an opportunity for hub’s partners to visit the Agbogbloshie e-waste dumpsite where the U01 studies will be conducted in order to have a first-hand experience of the study site to acquaint themselves with the prevailing working conditions there. During the field visit, soil and ash samples were collected from the site, split into two (2) parts, with one-half taken to Michigan and other half taken to Ecological Laboratory (EcoLab) in University of Ghana for analyses and ultimate cross-validation of results in preparation for sample analysis of the U01 component of the paired grant when field work commences in September 2016.
Following the in-person, a community Durbar was held by the University of Ghana project team members with the Chiefs, e-waste workers and residents at the e-waste site on March 21, 2016; to inform members of the community about the impending project and other initiatives in the community.
On May 12-13, three (3) key investigators including the two (2) Principal Investigators (PIs) of the paired grant attended the grantees’ networking meeting in Bethesda, MD-USA; following which the development of the hub’s website was finalized and launched (see: http://geohealth.weebly.com).
On June 28-29, 2016, an inception in-person meeting was held in Ouidah, Benin bringing together project partners from four (4) countries to finalize budget and allocation of funds to partner institutions in line with the revisions made to U01 research plans. An overview of research training of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows as well as senior mentor visits to North America under U2R including U01 research activities in West Africa and the meeting gave an avenue to set the stage for work at Agbogbloshie including discussion of the roles senior scientists, postdocs, and doctoral students from the partner institutions would play in the specific conduct of the research activities. Also discussed at the meeting included future allied projects and review of additional spinoff studies, additional funding opportunities and review of the entire constellation of relevant activities (e g , WHO HBM for Hg; PARTNER; etc.)
The meeting reviewed COPEH-AOC activities within the Inter-University PhD program and discussed the linkages and synergies between COPEH-AOC and GEOHealth II in relation to doctoral and postdoctoral fellowship training and how the two (2) programs would align to produce optimal results.
Furthermore, the meeting discussed planning and conduct of studies in relation to the content of contracts for doctoral students and responsibilities, contracts for postdoctoral students and responsibilities as well as agreement on basic timetables: launch date for the new Agbogbloshie study, when the first cohort of postdocs and doctoral students come to Michigan/McGill (also provide info on steps needed to activate this…obtaining visas, etc).We now have a firm grip on the number of postdocs, doctoral and master’s students to be trained over the 6 years of grant life and the quota for each participating institution as well as the timing of arrival of the first cohort and their senior mentors in North America (University of Michigan and McGill University.
The next in-person meeting of the project team is scheduled take place in the second of week of August at University of Michigan during which the protocol for the conduct of the U01 research studies will be finalized and research instruments developed and shared among key investigators including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The launch of the U01 studies is planned to take place in Accra in September.
Strengthening of existing Master’s and doctoral EOH research training programs.
During this past grant year, some of the enrolled EOH MSc students at the University of Ghana have taken advantage of access to the Agbogbloshie site to develop and conduct their dissertation studies. In addition, other enrolled EOH MSc students have conducted dissertation studies in other informal sector work sites or activities (mining, vehicle-related ambient air pollution, safety of foods prepared for sale, etc.) which are proposed as future locations for partially grant-supported “spinoff ” studies. Studies directly involving the Agbogbloshie E-waste site are bolded in the table below.
Table 1: Funded M.Sc Student Dissertations in the 2015-16 Academic Year
|• Kwame Yeboah||Liver and Immune Function among E-waste Recycling Workers at the Agbogbloshie E-Waste Processing Site in Accra|
|• Lenusia Ahlijah||Respiratory Symptoms and Dermatological Conditions in Municipal Solid Waste Workers in Tema: The Case of Zoomlion Ghana Limited|
|• Gilbert Awuah||An assessment of the levels of environmental pollution due to mining activities in the Ankobra and Tano river basins|
|• Ofeibea Abboah-Offei||Analysis of heavy metal concentrations in smoked fish from the major food markets in the Accra-Tema Metropolis|
|• Jones Ofori-Amoah||Evidence of Association between Arsenic Exposure and Buruli Ulcer (BU) in the Gold-mining communities of Amansie West District|
|• Eunice Matilda Mends||Levels of Heavy Metals in Cattle and Human Milk around an E-Waste Dumpsite, Agbogbloshie|
|• Bright Sandow||Diurnal rhythms of urban air pollution due to vehicular traffic in Accra|
Recruitment of doctoral students, postdocs and Research training: Other parallel project activities included recruitment of PhD students and hiring of postdoctoral fellows and for that matter on October 3, 2016, three PhD scholarships were awarded to 3 PhD students; in the persons of Lawrencia Kwarteng, Sylvia Takyi and Afua Amoabeng, at the University of Ghana -with Emmanuel Blankson subsequently joining the local GEOHealth team as the first UG-based postdoctoral fellow on March 13, 2017. As has been the case in the past, 5 brilliant M.Sc dissertation research works were selected and awarded modest research support from GEOhealth II research funds this (2016-17) academic year and below is a table listing the names and the corresponding dissertation topics.
M.Sc students supported by GEOHealth II in 2016-17 academic year
|• Araba Aubin Krampah||Pesticide residues in fish and environmental media from a major cocoa growing area in Ghana|
|• Benessa Acquah||Heavy metal exposure via consumption of meat from major abattoirs in the Accra-Tema metropolis|
|• Maxwell Oduro Yeboah||Levels of heavy metals in leachates of mix-wastes obtained from major waste dumps in Accra|
|•Sandra Boatemaa Takyi||An assessment of occupational hazards associated with informal electronic waste processing at Agbogbloshie using an adapted German Standardized Survey Instrument (GSSI)|
|• Yaw Twum Barima||Respiratory health among Ga Kenkey makers in Accra|