American University of Beirut

AUB and Yale University pair up, in collaboration with Iowa University, to establish the Global Environmental and Occupational Health Research and Training Hub for the MENA Region (GEO-Health-MENA)

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Yale Department of Emergency Medicine were each recently awarded close to $1.5 million from the Fogarty International Center and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a five-year project. The project, establishing the Global Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) Research and Training Hub for the Middle East and North Africa (GEOHealth-MENA), is funded by a collaborative grant divided into two components— a U01 research award for institutions in low- and middle-Income countries (LMIC) and a U2R training award for the institutions in the United States.

This innovative project builds on a long record of collaboration between investigators at AUB, Yale, and Iowa," say Hani Mowafi, MD, MPH, associate professor of Emergency Medicine and principal investigator of the U.S. based U2R project. “The research program, investigating the relationship between pesticide exposure and social stressors on Syrian refugees in Lebanon working in agriculture, will directly inform exposure assessment studies in similar countries around the world. The training program will build capacity in this regard and agriculture health and safety in the MENA region."

The goal of GEOHealth-MENA is to build and strengthen EOH research capacity at academic/research institutions and relevant NGOs in the region. The hub will identify and design mitigation strategies to address the ramifications of environmental and occupational exposures, especially among the refugee community.  The project will provide seven students with the necessary skills, mentorship, and networking to launch successful careers in environmental and occupational health. “GEOHealth-MENA provides an opportunity to build a cadre of competent EOH researchers and occupational physicians in the region, trained jointly by AUB, Yale University, and the University of Iowa. Scholarships will be offered to three individuals (one from each of Egypt, Lebanon, and Sudan) interested in a PhD in Epidemiology at AUB with a focus on EOH, and four physicians (two from Lebanon and one from each of Egypt and Sudan) interested in an MS in Epidemiology combined with a clinical fellowship in occupational and environmental medicine," said Dr. Iman Nuwayhid, Professor of Environment Health at FHS-AUB, and the principal investigator of the U01 grant.

By researching the effects of pesticide exposure and social stressors, the project aims to enhance safety and improve quality of health of agricultural workers, specifically among the refugee community in Lebanon and the MENA region. A GEOHealth-MENA hub cannot be more timely, urgent, and needed," adds Dr. Iman Nuwayhid,The MENA region reflects heterogeneous socioeconomic development, political systems, and environmental resources. This is overlaid with dynamic political and economic changes and massive population displacement. These factors together present an unparalleled environment for the emergence of a unique EOH research agenda that responds to EOH challenges."

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