College of Public Health

College of Public Health Faculty Publish on Global Water Safety


Drs. Quinn, O'Connell and Scheuerman

Drs. Bethesda O’Connell, Megan Quinn, and Phil Scheuerman, faculty in the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, are co-authors of an article recently published in Waterlines.  The article, Linkage between water, sanitation, hygiene, and child health in Bugesera District, Rwanda: a cross-sectional study, assesses the connection between specific hygienic practices with the reduction of childhood diarrhea in Rwanda.  

Dr. Theoneste Ntakirutimana, lead author of the article, is an environmental health expert at the University of Rwanda.  Dr. Ifeoma Ozodiegwu, alumna of the ETSU College of Public Health doctoral program, is a co-author.  Additional co-authors include members of WaterAid Rwanda and the University of Rwanda.   

Rwanda met the Millennium Development Goal targets for access to drinking water and sanitation. However, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices of high-risk communities are undocumented. Lack of information may hide disparities that correlate with disease. The purpose of this study was to assess WASH and childhood diarrhea in the Bugesera District of Rwanda.

For this study, a survey was administered to caregivers and water and stool samples were collected. Focus groups provided information on community context. The study found that piped water and unimproved sanitation were used by 45.28% and 88.38% of respondents, respectively. Most respondents (51.47%) travelled 30–60 minutes per trip for water and 70 per cent lacked access to hand-washing near the latrine. Diarrhea was less prevalent in children who used a toilet facility.  Use of a narrow mouth container for storage and a close hand-washing station were associated with decreased intestinal parasites.

Overall, the study findings add to information available about WASH linkages to childhood disease as well as methods of studying these linkages. Focus group findings on hand-washing attitudes and practices emphasize the need for training to increase prioritization of hand-washing.