Following the publication of results from a number of recent studies investigating links between improvements in sanitation and health (such as the WaSHBenefits study, studies in Tamil Nadu, Madya Pradesh and Orissa in India and others) some of you have contacted the Gates Foundation WSH team with questions and concerns about the seeming lack of consensus about the relationship between sanitation and health demonstrated in those studies.
Looking at a number of historical studies, it is hard to imagine that improvements in sanitation did not play a significant role in improving population health. And indeed, older as well as more recent historical evidence from US, Europe and developing countries establish causal relationships between sanitation and health. However, when considering more granular evidence considering the effects of individual and categories of interventions, there is less alignment.
Understandably, this has led to concerns about the meaning of this evidence, and questions about how it should be interpreted and used by practitioners, working to design and implement sanitation programs.
Partly in response to those concerns, WHO is convening an expert meeting in May this year, to develop a “consensus statement” around two specific questions:
• Are particular sanitation interventions more likely to have protective effects?
• What pre-conditions are likely to impact the effectiveness of these sanitation interventions?
The meeting will bring together researchers, from both life and social science backgrounds from around the world for two days of deliberations, informed by evidence and identifying points of agreement and contention. The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team at the foundation strongly supports the organization of this meeting, and to make sure that issues relevant to practitioners are considered (and hopefully answered) during the discussions, we would like to invite you to share with us the most important questions you (and your teams) face when considering the use of evidence in program design.
The consensus meeting is scheduled to take place on May 24 and 25. To allow for review and incorporation into the agenda, the deadline for the submission of questions for consideration is end of day Thursday May 17.
There is no particular format for submission, although when we say we are looking for questions, we mean just that; a short sentence with a question mark at the end (no need to over-think it). If you are concerned that there is the possibility of mis-interpretation, you should feel free to provide some context and explanation.
Following the meeting, the results will be published and broadly disseminated.
We look forward to hearing from you what concerns you. If you have any questions about the process (or the scope) of this effort, please feel free to get in touch.
Jan Willem Rosenboom and Radu Ban
Contact: janwillem.rosenboom [at] gatesfoundation.org