Two Monash Malaysia professors are part of global slum revitalisation project

Two Monash Malaysia professors - Daniel Reidpath and Pascale Allotey - are part of an international research consortium which was awarded an AUD $14 million grant.

Two Monash Malaysia professors - Daniel Reidpath and Pascale Allotey - are part of an international research consortium which was awarded an AUD $14 million grant. In one of only four such successes selected from over 600 applications worldwide, the Wellcome Trust (UK) awarded the prestigious grant to the Monash University-led team for a research project that will potentially improve the lives of more than a billion people living in urban slums globally.

Part of the Wellcome Trust’s ‘Our Planet Our Health’ funding program, Monash will use the grant for a five-year research project that will significantly advance human health and wellbeing in slums – or informal settlements – by transforming water infrastructure, water management, and sanitation practices.

Informal settlements are found mostly in rapidly growing urban areas of low to middle-income countries. They have poor health and well-being, inextricably linked to environmental exposure to pathogens, pollutants, and disease vectors in water, food, air, and soil.

The research project will deliver the first ever public health and environmental data on the outcomes of an alternative water management approach. The outcomes could potentially provide the basis for new water infrastructure policies and investment strategies for urban informal settlements worldwide.

Focussing on informal settlements in Fiji and Indonesia, the research project will commence this year. It will also be integrated in those countries in two infrastructure projects, which are currently being prepared for financing by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank.

The two infrastructure projects will upgrade 24 settlements in Fiji and Indonesia, chosen because they represent typical challenges to providing water management in the AsiaPacific region. The new practices and approaches developed there could be replicated elsewhere in the world to transform health and livelihoods of people in informal communities.

A critical component of success will be working in partnership with communities and other stakeholders. Drawing on the experience and technologies for engagement with their work through South East Asia Community Observatory (SEACO) in the Segamat community, Professors Reidpath and Allotey looks to establish a roadmap for urgently needed access to essential water services and greater resilience to the effects of climate change.

They will also be responsible for designing the tools for data collection of the health and well-being measures of the communities, and for the integration of data, based across different aspects of the program.

Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, said the informal settlement revitalisation research project was of great importance to help combat the pressures caused by the rapid rise in global population.

“Rapid urbanisation and the effects of climate change have a devastating effect on people around the world who live without adequate access to the most vital requirement for a healthy, stable and prosperous community – clean water,” Professor Gardner said.

“Monash already has a strong reputation for leading major, multidisciplinary, international research projects which have the ability to transform lives. Through our work, we have become recognised as a world leader in urban water research, influencing policy, regulation and practice.

“Our agility in bringing together teams of exceptional researchers across disciplines as diverse as medicine, design and economics both within our own University and across partner institutions and industries, positions us perfectly to lead this major global consortium. I am delighted that the Wellcome Trust and the Asian Development Bank are part of this important work,” Professor Gardner said.

The research project will be led by Professor Rebekah Brown, Director of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI). The consortium also includes Professor Tony Wong, CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, and Professor Karin Leder, Head of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.

For more information on the project, please read on.

Professor Pascale Allotey is the Associate Director of SEACO and Professor of Public Health at Monash University Malaysia. Her clinical training as a public health nurse and academic training in epidemiology and medical anthropology provide the disciplinary lens for this project. Prof Allotey has done extensive research in community-based research, in establishing the cultural and social basis for poor health and marginalisation, the design of appropriate interventions, and implementation research. She is part of a team of global experts that have produced a massive online open course (MOOC) on implementation research for the World Health Organisation (WHO). These experiences are core to ensuring that the evidence from communities, who are the intended beneficiaries of this project, is rigorously collected to provide the basis for lessons for scaling up this intervention.

Professor Daniel  Reidpath is the Director of SEACO and a Professor of Public Health at Monash University Malaysia. He has twenty years’ experience in population health research in low- and middle income countries, with a focus on equity and the social determinants of health. He has conducted multi-country studies on HIV (funded by the Ford Foundation) and more recently on non-communicable diseases. Prof Reidpath has been involved with research capacity building in several countries in West Africa and within the WHO WPRO region on equity and population health surveillance, and has made significant contributions to research and training in health equity analysis and indicators for reporting.

In his capacity as the Director of SEACO, Prof Reidpath has led the innovation of IT-based population health screening and the development of mobile applications and statistical techniques for the management of quality control, database management, and data linkage.