Public Health

The environment factors into public health on multiple fronts. To address them, Woods brings Stanford’s world-class medical scholars together with experts on environmental health and other disciplines to solve complex challenges in areas where resources are scarce. Scholars with our Water, Health and Development program are working with partners in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean to deliver affordable water supply and sanitation services in a way that enhances human health through safer, more sustainable water and wastewater management. In Haiti, an initiative run by Stanford graduate students is reducing water contamination from human waste while creating jobs and compost. In Bangladesh, a team led by Woods researchers is developing low-cost chlorination devices that treat water at the point of collection for thousands living in urban slums. In Senegal, researchers funded by Woods’ Environmental Venture Projects program are pioneering natural – and effective – approaches to curb the spread of schistosomiasis, a deadly neglected tropical disease. Read on to learn more about these projects and other work Stanford researchers are doing to sustain the health and well-being of people around the world.


Prawns vs. parasites

A Stanford-led team’s work in Senegal, West Africa, was recognized as the best health project in the Data for Development Challenge Senegal, in which international teams use anonymous mobile phone data to analyze issues ranging from agriculture to urban planning. The researchers are studying whether freshwater prawns that prey on parasite-infected snails can control the spread of schistosomiasis, while providing a source of marketable protein-rich food. Researchers used mobile data to calibrate the effect of people’s movement on schistosomiasis transmission. Read more.

Sanitation solutions

In many of the world’s overcrowded urban slums, residents must choose between open defecation, crowded public toilets or expensive private pit latrines that can't be emptied safely. Waste in these areas frequently contaminates local water supplies. A Stanford team is developing a solution: a subscription service for portable affordable dry household toilets which has been field tested in Haiti and which researchers are starting to test in the South Asian context. Read more.

Cleaner drinking water

During World Water Week in Stockholm, Woods’ Water, Health and Development Program won a cash prize and international recognition for its efforts to develop an affordable, sustainable solution to increase access to freshwater. The project involves the design of a community-scale, fully automated chlorine dosing device that can be installed on shared water points in low-income urban settings. Read more.

Paper microscopes

Stanford Woods Institute-affiliated Professor Manu Prakash (bioengineering) invented a print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper. While it costs less than a dollar in parts, it can magnify objects over 2,000 times and is small enough to fit in a pocket. Prakash’s dream is that this ultra-low-cost microscope will someday be distributed widely to detect dangerous blood-borne diseases like malaria, African sleeping sickness, schistosomiasis and chagas. Read more.

Safer beaches

The stomach flu, which often comes with diarrhea, vomiting and fever, is one of several ailments that can affect people infected by water polluted with fecal bacteria from sewage. A new analysis by researchers at Stanford, UCLA and the nonprofit environmental group Heal the Bay shows that relatively easy-to-use predictive modeling systems offer a “vast improvement” over current monitoring methods. Read more.

Perilous pathogens

A newly recognized human pathogen with unknown health consequences has been found to occur over a large part of the San Francisco Bay Area. A 2014 study details how Stanford researchers found the bacterium, Borrelia miyamotoi, as well as Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, in ticks they sampled throughout the area. Read more.

On Camera

Safe at the Source

Stanford researchers are developing an affordable and sustainable solution to the challenge of providing safe drinking water to nearly 1 billion people in city slums around the world. More …

When Toilets Fly

A Stanford-led study found that portable, affordable dry household toilets, in combination with a waste removal service, reduced the amount of unmanaged human waste in a Haitian slum by a factor of 3.5 and nearly eliminated open defecation and “flying toilets” – a common practice in which people throw plastic bags full of feces into waterways. Slideshow and More …

In The News

The Power of Green Space

Features research co-authored by Woods Senior Fellow Gretchen Daily (Biology) about how a walk in nature affects the brain
July 9, 2015 - By Phoebe Gavin,

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Stanford Researchers Rethink Sanitation System for Urban Slums

Features dry toilet and related service system developed by researchers affiliated with Woods' Water, Health & Development Program
May 13, 2015 - By Susana Mendoza, Xinhua News

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Study finds alarming level of lead in pregnant women

Study conducted by Dr Steve Luby shows alarming statistics regarding the levels of lead in pregnant women in country's remote areas.
August 25, 2014 - By Rafe Sadnan Adel, Dhaka Tribune

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Poor Sanitation in India May Afflict Well-Fed Children With Malnutrition

Quotes Senior Fellow Stephen Luby (Medicine) on sanitation's impact on childhood stunting. Luby is studying the issue in Bangladesh.
July 13, 2014 - By Gardiner Harris, New York Times

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“The goal is to isolate feces from people. Then we neutralize that waste so it's not a hazard anymore, but actually a valuable product.”

- Stanford Ph.D. candidate Kory Russel, co-founder of re.source

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