India continues to face multiple public health challenges in the COVID-19 era, including communicable diseases, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and natural disasters. The International Institute of Health Management Research Delhi (IIHMR) and NIEHS partnered to host an e-conference December 7-10, 2020 on “Environmental Determinants of Infectious Diseases in India (Focus on COVID-19)” covering these topics. A pre-conference mentoring workshop was hosted one week prior to provide support and guidance for scholars and early career scientists. The events were co-sponsored by the Indian Meteorological Society (IMS) and the Understanding Climate and Health Associations in India (UCHAI) initiative. All four co-sponsors helped provide speakers, scientific advice, and publicity for the events.
The objective of the workshop and conference was to offer a platform for scientists to explore the interplay of climate, environment, and infectious diseases in India, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The events were also intended to orient students and early career scientists to relevant research methodologies and practical application of knowledge.
As part of the educational component of the e-conference, the pre-conference workshop offered attendees the opportunity to prepare lightning presentations as well as posters of their research and to interact with scientific mentors who provided constructive feedback on the projects. Eight scholars gave their revised lightning talks on the third day of the e-conference, with topics ranging from environmental determinants of and behavioral impacts on COVID-19 to other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis and how they relate to COVID-19.
Drs. Shivam Kapoor and Debanjana Moitra were announced as the two winners of the Scholars’ Competition. As part of their prize, they will be invited to give a webinar at the NIEHS at a future date.
This year marks the five-year anniversary of the Understanding Climate and Health Associations in India (UCHAI) initiative. Initially started by IIHMR’s Dr. Nitish Dogra with support from the Global Environmental Health Program at NIEHS, UCHAI seeks to provide a platform for information exchange, research collaboration, and training and capacity building on climate and health in India. Several trainees who participated in the inaugural UCHAI workshop in September 2015 were invited to return and share how that experience and subsequent support helped to shape their research and career paths.
During the commemorative session, a common theme across the speakers was the value of collaboration, capacity building, and training made available through UCHAI. Having the opportunity to interact with professionals in different disciplines and roles created a rich environment for early career scientists to think innovatively to guide their research interests and activities. The UCHAI initiative has spearheaded many activities over the last five years, including developing informative communication resources such as infographics and videos, outreach to youth program, and conducting important workshops with key partners in India and the U.S.