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Emory Global Health Institute Field Scholars Awards Program

2012 Global Health Institute Field Scholars

Bridging Environmental Conservation and Public Health: Assessment of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International's Community Health Program in Rwanda

Suraja Raj, Rollins School of Public Health

fsa project 2012 RwandaUrbanization and migration can create stresses on population health, and also on the ecosystem. Habitat encroachment causes animals and humans to compete for water and food resources. In Rwanda, the world’s last population of mountain gorillas lives in a park that is bordered by an extremely dense human population. Living in this close proximity, humans and gorillas have frequent contact. This poses a threat for zoonoses, and also transmission of human pathogens to the gorilla population. The monitoring of infectious diseases in both populations, and the implementation of programs to improve health and limit human-gorilla contact are critical for both wildlife conservation and public health in this area of Rwanda.

In Bisate Village, the community nearest the Virungas National Park, the population of rural agriculturalists faces the issues of poverty such as the lack of access to education, healthcare, opportunities for economic development, and basic services such as roads, electricity, and potable water. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) and the Emory Global Health Institute are collaborating to create coordination across health, education, and environmental interventions by NGOs and government programs targeting Bisate and other communities that border the park. As an Emory Global Health Institute Field Scholar, Ms. Raj worked to support the development of the DFGFI-GHI collaboration by evaluating the DFGFI Ecosystem Health and Community Development program’s impact on helminth control in the population bordering the park, and also by assessing the active projects being implemented by DFGFI and other INGOs, the government, and local organizations in Bisate Village.

During her project, Ms. Raj:

  1. analyzed DFGFI human helminth parasite datasets; and
  2. supported development of long-term collaboration between EGHI and DFGFI for human population programs by integrating monitoring and evaluation into development projects in Bisate and offering expertise in developing interventions, research to support interventions, and solutions for collaboration across sectors to improve wellbeing and ecosystem protection.

In follow-up to the summer work, Ms. Raj presented a poster of her project during the 2012 EGHI Global Health Scholars Symposium.

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