03/12/2007 - 13:59

Curtin Uni and WHO collaborate in Mongolia

03/12/2007 - 13:59

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health in Mongolia have sought the help of Curtin University of Technology's Professor Jeffrey Spickett to manage an environmental disaster in a rural Mongolian village.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health in Mongolia have sought the help of Curtin University of Technology's Professor Jeffrey Spickett to manage an environmental disaster in a rural Mongolian village.

Professor Spickett travelled to Mongolia in his capacity as the Head of Curtin's WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Impact Assessment to review the existing situation of cyanide and mercury contamination, assess Government action from a health point of view and assist in making a preliminary health impact assessment for the affected areas and population.

"In less developed countries around the world there is often a lack of experience within the government and a lack of capacity to deal with the complex issues related to this type of incident, and very often the scientific techniques and procedures are not adequate," Professor Spickett said.

"In this case there were a number of complex issues associated with the identification of hazards, possible exposures and health symptoms related to the illegal activities and the attempts to control further contamination and exposures.

"The Mongolian Government required support to evaluate the health impact assessment process and advice on the requirements to manage the complex issues."

Over the course of three weeks in Mongolia, Professor Spickett met with top Government officials from various agencies, and officials from the United Nations and WHO.

His recommendations included capacity building for the Mongolian scientists, technologists, researchers, and others to update their professional skills in areas such as field sampling; analysis and data evaluation; establishing and maintaining environment and health databases and information sources; and a medium term epidemiological investigation to be designed and implemented to evaluate the impact on the health of the community.

Curtin's School of Public Health has been a WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Impact Assessment since 2003, and as Head of the Centre Professor Spickett has made a number of trips to countries such as China, Africa, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia to provide expert advice and consultation on various issues and situations.

Environmental Health Impact Assessment is a process which seeks to predict the impact of a development before the development proposal has been approved, so that negative impacts can be reduced or avoided, positive impacts can be enhanced and the probability of sustainable development increased, which combine to form a key component of informed decision making.

 

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