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PLOS Science Wednesday: Hi Reddit, we’re Oliver Cumming, Pinaki Panigrahi, & Yael Velleman and we’re here to discuss how improved water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs will impact health outco
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Hi Reddit, I am Yael Velleman, a Senior Policy Analyst for Health & Hygiene at WaterAid. My work focuses on the links between water, sanitation and hygiene and health, and the implications for policy and programs. I am Pinaki Panigrahi, a professor of Epidemiology, Pediatrics, and Environmental-Agricultural-and-Occupational Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and also the Director of the Center for Global Health and Development at the College of Public Health at University of Nebraska. My current research focus is to study the impact of environmental exposures on maternal and child health. I am Oliver Cumming, a Lecturer in the Environmental Health in Department of Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. My research focuses on access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene and its impacts on childhood health and development. We recently published papers in PLOS Medicine examining the impacts of water and sanitation programs on public health. In a paper titled “From Joint Thinking to Joint Action: A Call to Action on Improving Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Maternal and Newborn Health,” Yael and Oliver, in collaboration with several UN and academic agencies and institutions, set out the case for action on water, sanitation and hygiene for improving maternal and newborn health, and provided a set of policy recommendations. In “Risk of Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes among Women Practicing Poor Sanitation in Rural India: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study,” Pinaki and colleagues found that open defecation led to more adverse pregnancy outcomes. The study enrolled more than 600 pregnant women and researchers tracked their sanitation practice during pregnancy. Those practicing open defecation had higher number of bad pregnancy outcomes, especially preterm births. Many other concomitant factors were also studied (apart from defecation practice), and against conventional wisdom, we did not find socioeconomic status to play any role in this, but the pregnant woman’s education did. More research is needed to identify changes that are induced by open defecation ultimately driving an unhealthy pregnancy. We will be taking your questions about how WASH impacts global public health today at 1pm ET (10 am PT, 5 pm UTC) — Ask Us Anything! And don’t forget to follow Yael on Twitter at @YaelVelleman.