Environment fingerprinting via digital technology - a new paradigm in hazard forecasting and early-warning systems for health risks in Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Unprecedented rate of urbanization constitutes substantial risks to the resilience of cities, with public health and welfare being the most critical concern. This includes the emergence of (non-)communicable disease epidemics due to environment contamination and lifestyle factors. To increase the sustainability of cities, there is a critical need for an early warning system (EWS) for public & environmental health diagnostics that operates on a large scale and in real time. Rapid urbanisation and the young, growing population of Africa are also linked with rapid digitisation and an unprecedented up-take of new technology. This presents a unique opportunity for the development of a digital technology-based, comprehensive and real time EWS that is attuned to public and environmental health risks in rapidly changing Africa. We propose to build a network aiming to develop a public & environmental health diagnostics and hazard forecasting platform in Africa via urban environment fingerprinting underpinned by digital innovation.

EDGE-I will develop a conceptual model (and a prototype in EDGE-II) of an environment fingerprinting platform for hazard forecasting and EWS using DIGITAL INNOVATION and state-of-the-art bioanalytical, socioeconomic, statistical & modelling tools. The digital innovation will be focused on the use of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled sensors and cloud computing as a plat-form for capturing, storing, processing, and presenting a wide range of environmental measures to a broad group of stakeholders.

EDGE will focus on two key thematic areas of critical importance to rapidly growing and urbanising Africa:
(1) Water, sanitation & public health: as a vector for infectious disease spread and environmental AMR.
(2) Urbanization & pollution: as a vector for environmental degradation and non-communicable disease.

EDGE postulates that the measurement of endo- and exogenous environment & human derived residues continuously and anonymously pooled by the receiving environment (sewage, rivers, soils and air), can provide near real-time dynamic information about the quantity and type of physical, biological or chemical stressor to which the surveyed system is exposed, and can profile the effects of this exposure. It can therefore provide anonymised, comprehensive and objective information on the health status of urban dwellers and surrounding environments in real time, as urban environment continuously pools anonymous urine, wastewater and runoff samples from thousands of urban dwellings.

EDGE-I will focus on building a concept of a prototype of EWS in two geographically and socioeconomically contrasting areas in Africa: Lagos (Nigeria), Cape Town (South Africa). The young and growing population of Africa that is rapidly up-taking digital innovation provides a unique opportunity for building a system underpinned by digital channels to provide long and lasting impacts. To achieve above EDGE-I will:
1 Develop a transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral network focussed on building EWS in Africa
2 Develop a conceptual model of an EWS in Afri-ca underpinned by digital innovation in techno-logical solutions and Citizen Science
3 Engage with stakeholders: from citizens, through government to digital tech industry
E
DGE-I will catalyse the development of a large-scale research programme (EDGE-II).

Planned Impact

Policy makers, government agencies, public services and non-governmental development organisations are direct beneficiaries of this research. This project will break new ground in supplementing the current body of knowledge with new digital technology driven approaches to identifying risks within communities of different socio-economic status and communicating these risks to the stakeholder groups. The close proximity of the various communities in the selected case studies presents an opportunity to investigate the utility of an EWS in different contexts enabling wide-ranging beneficiaries in the public sector: from engineers and health professionals to environment agencies and regulators. Our approach, in the longer term, could trigger legislative, procedural or policy changes on a national scale. We will engage with local and national governments in Nigeria and South Africa (e.g. EDGE-I Partners: Lagos State Government, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment, Pollution Control & Environmental Health Department, City of Cape Town Municipality, Water & Waste Directorate, Water and Sanitation, Western Cape Provincial Government) to ensure informed development and future implementation of the project. Digital technology sector (represented here by EDGE-I Partners: TecLab, Amazon Web Services, bioIP and Mayden) will benefit from new ideas regarding development and implementation (in EDGE-II) of autonomous Internet of Things type platforms, sensor technology and novel applications of bioanalytical techniques. Local communities, especially the vulnerable communities of Cape Town and Lagos, will be the key direct beneficiaries. The benefit is two-fold. In short term, engagement with Lagos local-communities via Citizen Science (represented in EDGE-I Partner by EarthWatch) and communication of research outcomes will increase community-wide awareness of environment and public health related issues (NGO Partners in EDGE-I: Peculiar Grace Youth Empowerment Initiative and Centre for Human Development). In the longer term, the EWS will deliver real-time response to multi-hazards within the communities saving lives and significantly increasing security and quality of life. The project will be beneficial to society in general as it will contribute to the increase of security of water supply and better understanding of the drivers influencing communities' resilience to various man-made and natural hazards. Dissemination of the outcomes via appropriate channels (i.e. media, local leaders) will enhance public knowledge of key environment and public health priorities. Finally, this project will enhance and further consolidate expertise at the universities of Stellenbosch, Lagos and Bath. Through involvement of public sector organisations and the private sector, researchers working in this project will gain exposure to different working cultures, and an understanding of how to apply, manage and implement research outcomes across disciplines and sectors.

People

ORCID iD

Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern (Principal Investigator)
Julian James Faraway (Co-Investigator)
Benjamin William Metcalfe (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4279-8930
Pedro Miguel Estrela (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6956-1146
Foluso Oyedotun Agunbiade (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6467-8561
Marthinus Johannes Booysen (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2817-2069
Temitope Sogbanmu (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8913-267X
Jakobus Andries Du Plessis (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8093-6711
Ben Adams (Co-Investigator)
Chika Yinka-Banjo (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0712-7413
Marelize Botes (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7625-2958
Gideon Wolfaardt (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2816-490X
MARY Idowu AKINYEMI (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2146-9337
Edward James Feil (Co-Investigator)
Theresa Smith (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7085-3864
Thomas Rodding Kjeldsen (Co-Investigator)
Mirella Di Lorenzo (Co-Investigator)
Temilola Oluwafunmilayo Oluseyi (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5722-3403
Julie Barnett (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5740-0863
Nico Elema (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7566-3672
Danae Stanton Fraser (Co-Investigator)
Andrew Whitelaw (Co-Investigator)
Marlene De Witt (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9911-490X
Willem Petrus De Clercq (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9812-7311
Peter Wilson (Co-Investigator)
Tobias Muller Louw (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4166-0799

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description EDGE focussed on the foundational network building that enabled designing a conceptual model for an environment fingerprinting platform for public & environmental health diagnostics and hazard forecasting using digital technology to understand and characterise key cause - effect associations resulting from natural & anthropogenic hazards (e.g. flood, infectious disease) attending to the ripple effects that may cascade through the system in the context of sustained high rates of urbanization in African cities.

EDGE focussed on establishing the appropriate network for designing a prototype EWS in two geo-graphically and socioeconomically contrasting areas in Africa: Lagos (Nigeria), Cape Town (South Africa). These areas are subject to different stressors and resulting multi-hazard risks, but have core common denominators: resource stress driven by uncontrolled population growth, low resource availability & unpredictable weather conditions. The close proximity of various communities of different socio-economic status, accessing different levels of infrastructure and exposed to different stressors, presents an opportunity to investigate the socio-technical challenges of developing & implementing an EWS in such contexts. The young and growing population of Africa that is rapidly up-taking digital innovation provides a unique opportunity for building a system underpinned by digital channels to provide long and lasting impacts. The main key outputs are:
1 Development of a transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral network focussed on building EWS in Africa
2 Development of a conceptual model of an EWS in Africa underpinned by digital innovation in techno-logical solutions and Citizen Science
3 Development of a demonstration platform for EWS implementation in Africa
Exploitation Route EDGE-I focused on building a concept of a prototype of EWS in two geographically and socioeconomically contrasting areas in Africa: Lagos (Nigeria), Cape Town (South Africa). The young and growing population of Africa that is rapidly up-taking digital innovation provides a unique opportunity for building a system underpinned by digital channels to provide long and lasting impacts. To achieve above EDGE-I:
1 Developed a transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral network focused on building EWS in Africa
2 Developed a conceptual model of an EWS in Africa underpinned by digital innovation in techno-logical solutions and Citizen Science, to serve as a platform for deployment if new funding can be secured.
3 Engaged with stakeholders: from citizens, through government to digital tech industry

The key impacts are:
1. A successful network with a wide-ranging stakeholder group now in search of an opportunity to progress without anticipated GCRF support.
2. A conceptual model (written up as a perspective paper) clearly signposting next steps for the development of an EWS.
3. Proof-of-concept real-time sensing and data collection utilizing an IoT.
4. EDGE set grounds for the development of an EWS for Sars-oV-2 surveillance via wastewater in both Nigeria (first steps) and in South Africa (a thriving national network SACCESS).

Stakeholder Engagement ad Equitable Partnerships
Policy makers, government agencies, public services and non-governmental development organisations are direct beneficiaries of this research and therefore input from all these sectors were collated. This project broke new ground in supplementing the current body of knowledge with new digital technology driven approaches to identifying risks within communities of different socio-economic status and communicating these risks to the stakeholder groups. The close proximity of the various communities in the selected case studies presented an opportunity to investigate the utility of an EWS in different contexts enabling wide-ranging beneficiaries in the public sector: from engineers and health professionals to environment agencies and regulators. Our approach, in the longer term, could trigger legislative, procedural or policy changes on a national scale. We engaged with local and national governments in Nigeria and South Africa (e.g. EDGE-I Partners: Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment Nigeria, Pollution Control and Environmental Health Department, City of Cape Town Municipality, Water & Waste Directorate, Water and Sanitation, Western Cape Provincial Government) to ensure informed development and future implementation of the project. The digital technology sector (represented here by EDGE-I Partners: TecLab, Amazon Web Services, bioIP and Mayden) benefited from new ideas regarding development and implementation (in EDGE-II) of autonomous Internet of Things type platforms, sensor technology and novel applications of bioanalytical techniques. Local communities, especially the vulnerable communities of Cape Town and Lagos, were the key direct beneficiaries. The planned benefit was two-fold. In short term, engagement with Lagos local communities via Citizen Science (represented in EDGE-I Partner by EarthWatch) and communication of research outcomes to increase community-wide awareness of environment and public health related issues (NGO Partners in EDGE-I: Peculiar Grace Youth Empowerment Initiative and Centre for Human Development). In the longer term, the EWS was to deliver real-time response to multi-hazards within the communities saving lives and significantly increasing security and quality of life. During frequent (monthly) meetings new approaches (including citizen science) were developed. Meetings with citizens were not possible due to Covid restrictions and further work was hampered by GCRF cuts.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://ewsresearch.com/our-projects/edge/
 
Description The impact and value of this project, and its GCRF-funded predecessor (ReNEW) has been demonstrated during the Covid pandemic, since a strong - multidisciplinary team with shared interest in WBE was already in place and collaborating when the need for wastewater surveillance was acknowledged by the respective Governments. The strong existing collaboration provided a core leadership group (at least in South Africa) that could immediately play a pivotal role in the rapid assembly of a national task team 'South African Collaboration COVID-19 Environmental Surveillance System (SACCESS)' with important partners, amongst others the Water Research Commission, National Department of Health, National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), as well as our industrial partner ERWAT. Further evidence of impact is the weekly reporting to senior management at Stellenbosch University on wastewater surveillance at the main, as well as the medical campus.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Environment fingerprinting via digital technology - a new paradigm in hazard forecasting and early-warning systems for health risks in Africa
Amount £126,723 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T029986/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 04/2021
 
Description 1. Kasprzyk-Hordern, Global practices on environmental surveillance for public health tracking and forensics, WRC WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH DAY WEBINAR, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, A KEY PUBLIC HEALTH INTERVENTION IN DISEASE PANDEMIC PREVENTION 23 September 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar focussed on Wastewater-based epidemiology
1. Kasprzyk-Hordern, Global practices on environmental surveillance for public health tracking and forensics, WRC WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH DAY WEBINAR, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, A KEY PUBLIC HEALTH INTERVENTION IN DISEASE PANDEMIC PREVENTION 23 September 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description AQUA˜360: Water for All - Emerging Issues and Innovations", talk entitled: 'Water-based chemical mining for environmental and public health assessment, 21/08/2021 (keynote) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk entitled: 'Water-based chemical mining for environmental and public health assessment
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://www.aqua360.net
 
Description Announcement of the implementation of a wastewater surveillance platform to detect COVID-19 outbreaks on the Stellenbosch University campus 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A press release was done on the Stellenbosch University newsletter that announced the initiation of a wastewater-based epidemiology surveillance program on the two major campuses of Stellenbosch University. The methodology of the surveillance program was explained as well as the value that this may provide as an early warning system to safeguard the health system of campus staff and students. The press release also served as a platform for reaching other media platforms and journalists to expand on the project's communication strategy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=8289
 
Description Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Wastewater Based Epidemiology and One Health, Water Security Alliance Series 2021, 1/11/-21-4/11/21 (invited talk) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Wastewater Based Epidemiology and One Health, Water Security Alliance Series 2021, 1/11/-21-4/11/21 (invited talk)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Wastewater based epidemiology for environmental and public health assessment, Joint Biosecurity Centre seminar series9/09/2021 (invited talk) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Talk entitled: 'Wastewater based epidemiology for environmental and public health assessment'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Kasprzyk-Hordern interview for The bmj article: Sewage monitoring is the UK's next defence against covid-19, 15th of July 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview for an article
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2599.full
 
Description Kasprzyk-Hordern, Wastewater-based Epidemiology and Environment Fingerprinting for Public Health Assessment, BNet Webinar: Biosensors and Environmental Monitoring - New Developments in Environmental Biotech, 17th November 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Kasprzyk-Hordern, Wastewater-based Epidemiology and Environment Fingerprinting for Public Health Assessment, BNet Webinar: Biosensors and Environmental Monitoring - New Developments in Environmental Biotech, 17th November 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://ebnet.ac.uk/biosensors/
 
Description Kasprzyk-Hordern, Wastewater-based epidemiology for public health assessment, Cranfield University, Wastewater Network meeting, 30th June 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk by Kasprzyk-Hordern, Wastewater-based epidemiology for public health assessment, Cranfield University, Wastewater Network meeting, 30th June 2020 (invited, keynote, virtual)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Kasprzyk-Hordern, Water fingerprinting for public health assessment, British Mass Spectrometry Society, Virtual Environmental & Food Analysis SIG, 30th July 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Kasprzyk-Hordern, Water fingerprinting for public health assessment, British Mass Spectrometry Society, Virtual Environmental & Food Analysis SIG, 30th July 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://bmss.org.uk/bmss-virtual-efasig-meetings-2020/past-event-30th-july-2020
 
Description Kasprzyk-Hordern, interview, NBCnews, In search for a coronavirus early warning system, scientists look to the sewers, 3rd of July 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact interview
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/search-coronavirus-early-warning-system-scientists-look-sewers-n1...
 
Description Royal Society of Chemistry Webinar - Wastewater Based Epidemiology entitled Wastewater-Based Epidemiology: past, present and future, 9/09,2021 (invited talk) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk entitled Wastewater-Based Epidemiology: past, present and future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.rsc.org/events/detail/47496/webinar-wastewater-based-epidemiology
 
Description Water fingerprinting for environmental and public health assessment, Centre of Research in Biomedical Science (CRIB), UWE, 4th December 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk by Kasprzyk-Hordern focussed on 'Water fingerprinting for environmental and public health assessment', Centre of Research in Biomedical Science (CRIB), UWE, 4th December 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020