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TODAY news for Thursday, March 12, 2007

School of Public Health news

SPH student in Cambodia studies handwashing

Leonard Uisetiawan is pictured in his ADRA office.
Leonard Uisetiawan is pictured in his ADRA office.
Facing persecution in Indonesia, Leonard Uisetiawan, MD, and his family left behind their burned-down home to seek safety on another island.

He spent time in camps for internally displaced persons. Later, Dr. Uisetiawan worked with international nongovernment organizations, moving around within the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

He next moved to Cambodia, as provincial project advisor for the Cambodia branch of Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA). He also began online coursework through LLU School of Public Health.

“The conflict in Indonesia indeed was a blessing in disguise as it opened the opportunity for me to take the master’s of public health online course,” says Dr. Uisetiawan, who is also earning a tobacco control certificate through the School of Public Health.

His educational blessing is allowing him to help others. In February, he begun a study of handwashing practices in rural Cambodia, which he hopes will eventually lead to better hygiene practices and thus fewer illnesses.

Dr. Uisetiawan hopes to discover why knowledge of handwashing does not necessarily lead to the practice of this simple, yet potentially life-saving, habit.

Proper handwashing is an integral component in reducing diarrheal illness and death in children.

Child mortality in Cambodia is all too common. The likelihood of a child dying before the age of 5 is 154 in 1,000 for boys and 127 in 1,000 for girls, according to the World Health Organization.

In his study, Dr. Uisetiawan will collect data on handwashing and other personal hygiene habits from 300 households in two districts of the Kampong Thom province.

From the data, he and others will design a handwashing promotional program tailored to the needs of the community. ADRA– Cambodia will adapt the pilot program and implement it over the course of three years.

The study results will eventually be used to encourage policy makers in the Cambodian government to place greater emphasis on hygiene measures.

Dr. Uisetiawan is being advised on this project by Ron Mataya, MD, chair of the School of Public Health department of global health.

“I think this is a very useful study, as handwashing alone could prevent a lot of diseases if everyone did it faithfully, especially in resource-poor settings where sanitation is poor,” Dr. Mataya says.

Dr. Uisetiawan’s study is funded by a $9,804 grant from Colgate-Palmolive through the American Public Health Association.

“Thanks to the LLU professors who built up my capacity and empowered me to win the grant,” he says.

Specifically, Dr. Uisetiawan is grateful for the motivation to look for opportunities for grant proposals that he received from Synnove Knutsen, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health.

By Heather Reifsnyder

TODAY news for Thursday, March 12, 2007