School or College:
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is rapidly urbanizing, but the sprawl is largely unplanned and unregulated, resulting in poor air quality. Yet, for the vast majority of SSA cities, there is little to no information to support health studies and environmental policy. The lungs of children are still developing and more sensitive to air pollution exposure which could have short- and long-term health effects. This includes increased risk of high blood pressure, a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Hypertension in children is becoming prevalent in SSA, but the contribution of air pollution has not been investigated due to limited availability of local data. My goal is to develop citywide air pollution models to support such epidemiologic studies in the SSA context.
The first portion of my dissertation involved the design and collection of large-scale field data on air pollution in Greater Accra, the largest metropolis in Ghana. Specifically, I am measuring fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which can travel into deeper parts of the lungs. I am currently combining the PM2.5 data collected with information on land-use features to model air pollution exposure for the entire city. The final portion of my dissertation research will use the validated models to evaluate the contribution of long-term air pollution exposure in early life to the development of high blood pressure in children in the Greater Accra metropolis. This research will provide novel insights on the threat that air pollution poses to children’s cardiovascular health. Such evidence can inspire community discussions and urban planning decisions to improve air quality in Accra and similar SSA cities.