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Population Health Initiative in Peru

We have developed an interdisciplinary, action-oriented program – TRACTION Labs – to improve human and animal health, environmental resilience and social equity through participatory design, implementation and assessment of projects, processes and technologies in vulnerable communities. We started the first TRACTION Lab in Claverito, Iquitos, Peru – an informal urban floating community living on the Amazon River.

The Lab designs and implements innovative interventions to improve the built and natural environments in Claverito and then assesses for improvements in health by examining the “microbiome,” or flora, in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract of human and animal residents and the environment, alongside traditional measures of health (e.g., blood pressure, hemoglobin levels) to determine if these interventions can reduce exposure to harmful bacteria (e.g., Escherichia coli), parasites (e.g., Giardia lamblia), and metals (e.g., lead) that stunt growth and development of children and health of adults. Initial interventions will address community-defined challenges and will likely involve integrated productive gardens and floating pathways that clean water and soil, provide microhabitat, food and medicinal plants and carry future community services (e.g., electricity, water, sewer).

We hope that our project will not only improve health conditions for the Claverito community, but also provide collaborative service learning opportunities for UW and Peruvian students and faculty, and contribute to knowledge about the influence of the built and natural environment upon the microbiome – a determinant of health. The TRACTION Lab in Claverito will inform future Labs in other vulnerable communities in Peru, the US, Washington and internationally.