Collaboration with African Population and Health Research Centre, Coventry University, Durham University, Institute of Occupational Medicine, International Institute for Environment and Development, Kenyatta University, Loughborough University, Shack/Slum Dwellers International, St Mary's University College, Twickenham, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of Glasgow, University of Manchester, University of Portsmouth and University of York.
Air pollution is a major health concern around the world. Particulate matter (abbreviated as PM) is the mostly invisible particles in the air that stem from burning fuels such as charcoal, wood, petrol, kerosene. Every breath a person takes contains PM and PM is the type of air pollution that most commonly causes ill health. The smallest PM is known as fine PM or PM2.5 - the particles are only 2.5 microns (2.5 millionths of a metre) or less in diameter. These particles are so small that they can be inhaled deep into the lungs. In Africa alone, PM2.5 causes 670,000 premature deaths annually. As well as reducing life expectancy, it lowers the quality of life through respiratory and cardiovascular diseases often leading to a reduction in the resilience and productivity of people. Levels of this air pollutant are particularly high in informal settlements (sometimes referred to as slums), both outdoor and indoor: outdoor due to the location of settlements which is often near to industrial areas, busy and dusty roads, and sites of litter burning, and indoor due to cooking, lighting and heating with low-quality fuels in badly ventilated huts.
Attempts to improve air pollution and reduce people's exposure to it have been introduced in Nairobi's informal settlements in recent years, including awareness raising campaigns. However, significant positive effects on people's health have not yet been reported. New approaches are needed which bring together researchers from different disciplines and people who live and work in the informal settlements to discuss the issues, raise awareness and consider potential solutions. These solutions will integrate scientific, non-scientific and societal understanding and knowledge to ensure relevance and impact.
The new Air pollution Interdisciplinary Research (AIR) Network will bring together residents of informal settlements (e.g. Mukuru, Korogocho etc.) in Nairobi (Kenya), community organisations and UK and African researchers in a workshop, monthly meetings and mini-projects to gain a deep understanding of i) air pollution issues faced by residents of these settlements and ii) the causes of these issues. Many of the network members have worked with residents of African informal settlements before, but not in the interdisciplinary manner proposed for this network. We will use a variety of methods drawn from the different disciplines we represent, including theatre, street games and participatory workshops, and will use the understanding gained through these to begin to develop intervention options with local residents that can improve the health and wellbeing of local community members. By the end of the project we will be able to apply for funding to trial and implement intervention options and conduct larger scale studies across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Our partners and contacts in the settlements will publicise the project to the residents but also policymakers, stakeholders and researchers using channels such as local radio, newspapers, twitter, theatre and street games and art. We will also communicate about the project more widely through a dedicated project website (incorporating a blog, video-diaries, ideas for games and other resources), project team members' social media accounts and to academic audiences through conferences and papers. Like all our activities, these communication outputs will be co-designed with local residents, and where appropriate translated into the key local languages.