Public Engagement funding won for Kenya lung health research

Two University of Portsmouth researchers are part of a team that has been awarded £100,000 for further work on a project which explores the lung health of children in Kenya.

The Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Award is to support an existing research project called TUPUMUE, or ‘let’s breathe’ in Swahili. The aim of the project is to find out how many children from two areas in Nairobi have lung problems, and to explore children’s experiences of lung problems and air quality.

Researchers are measuring the lung capacity of 2,600 children aged five to 18 from the informal settlement Mukuru and the adjacent affluent area Buruburu. The two areas are geographically close, but very different in terms of their socioeconomic make up.

Dr Cressida Bowyer and Dr Louis Netter from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries are co-investigators on the project, which was launched at the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi last year.

Dr Bowyer said: “The Wellcome Award has enabled the delivery of a robust community sensitisation programme with a variety of creative partners. Academics, practitioners and community members are working together to research and develop a suite of culturally relevant activities that will raise awareness of TUPUMUE aims and objectives in advance of data collection”

These activities are being used to reach people in diverse settings such as schools, churches, and marketplaces. The arts-based methods include song, theatre, puppetry and visual arts. Participatory arts-based methodologies will be used again later this year to research lived experience, focusing on perceptions and experiences around lung health and air pollution in the two communities.

Dr Netter said: “The use of creative methods helps to break down hierarchies between researcher and subject, and stimulate open ended and holistic qualitative data collection. Non-written communication strategies are especially useful when working with children. By involving the community at all stages of the research process, we aim to ensure that interventions are appropriate and relevant, to ensure lasting and sustainable impact.”

Research has shown that many adults in Africa have reduced lung function, but to date, no one has investigated whether this starts early in life. We hope that the results of this study will contribute to our understanding of lung health and ultimately to the improved health and wellbeing of African citizens.

Please follow the project progress on twitter @TupumueP

To follow Dr Louis Netter’s news on the project visit his blog.

Leave your thought