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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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Research and Remediation: Working with the Dhaka Community Hospital Trust

Beginning with identification of the first arsenic cases in 1996 in a village about 130 kilometers from Dhaka, the Dhaka Community Hospital Trust (DCHT) has been at the forefront of efforts to educate communities, find alternative water sources, and treat those presenting with negative effects.

DCHT organized its first international conference on arsenic in drinking water in 1998, and has since carried out other conferences, training of health sector workers, and promotion of community awareness and mitigation. According to Golam Mostafa, DCHT project and research director, the group promotes a range of alternatives to arsenic-contaminated tube wells, with the choice often depending on the specific location, cultural practices, financial considerations, and other factors. The hospital and its network of clinics treat patients with a range of conditions, and they also provide counseling to improve diet and to combat the social stigma that once marked arsenic cases, particularly in women.

“Research and remediation have to work together,” said DCHT Chairman Dr. Quazi Quamruzzaman. “Dr. Christiani and the Harvard group have played a tremendous role in creating awareness, counseling, helping patients, and taking the community in confidence. They share what they learn with the community and give us and them scientific information not available anyplace else.” Although arsenic is a continuing concern, according to Quamruzzaman, fewer unsafe tube wells are in use now than a decade earlier, in part because of the education and alternatives promoted by his organization and others. DHCT continues to actively seek ways to lower exposure and remediate against the effects in those already exposed.

Christiani presenting at Dhaka Community Hospital
An important aspect of Christiani’s NIEHS-supported research is to share findings with community members and health care workers, as shown in this presentation at Dhaka Community Hospital.
(Photo courtesy of Dhaka Community Hospital Trust)