Kathleen Conery

Project title: Effects of the built environment on health in a floating slum community in Iquitos, Peru

Degree: MPH | Program: One Health (ONE) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2019 | Faculty advisor: Peter Rabinowitz


Background: The built environment affects the health of a community in a multitude of ways. One of those ways is through changing an individual’s exposure to environmental contaminants, such as bacterial pathogens. Another is through the availability of food. This study looks at the impacts of an urban garden intervention on the population health of a floating informal urban community on the Peruvian Amazon called Claverito. A community participatory design process was used to assess what improvements community members wanted to see in their community. Together, the researchers and community members decided to create floating gardens attached to houses. This paper examines the possible short-term community health effects that implementing these gardens had on the community. Methods: Multiple interventions took place from 2016 to 2018. This paper focused on two interventions that involved garden building in the community. The first intervention was to put a large community garden on the hillside that everyone has access to. The second intervention involved two rounds of individual households building personal gardens. To assess health, a household survey was administered during sequential health fairs using a previously developed survey (Global Assessment of Zoonotic and Environmental Risks (GAZER)) to assess which members of the community self-reported having diarrhea or stomach problems. Surveys were conducted in February and July 2018, and asked about the month preceding each survey. Reported rates of diarrhea and gastrointestinal (GI) complaints were compared between the two time points, and were also compared to use of gardens. Results: Among the study population as a whole, there was a moderate increase in garden use, for both fruits and greens (35% vs. 23%, p=0.32) and herbal medications (48% vs. 23%, p=0.3), between the two time points. This difference was only significant for herbal medication. Conclusion: During this study period, there was an increase in the number of products acquired from household gardens. Although this did not translate into a change in community health outcomes, there is potential for that change to come with additional time.