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Research addresses health impacts of contaminated water

WSU Vancouver graduate student Stephanie Gardiner, second from right, and an RN from the Holy Innocents Children’s Hospital in Mbarara, right, visit with patients in a field clinic in Kakoma, Uganda.

From Northwest Crimson & Gray, WSU Vancouver

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Helping get a hospital built in Uganda was an important step for Anita Hunter. But it was just the first step.

“Our work has gone beyond building a hospital to cure illnesses. We need to prevent them,” said Hunter, a clinical professor and associate dean of academic affairs and accreditation for Washington State University’s College of Nursing. She has offices on both the Vancouver and Spokane campuses.

Anita Hunter, right, with Vancouver high school student Chris Bevin in Uganda.

After assessing how environment and health interacted to affect each other and people, Hunter and her colleagues focused their work on contaminated groundwater. Some 80 percent of the country in Uganda has no access to clean water.

As a result of their findings, her team is working to educate affected people. They determined two major interventions are feasible:

  1. Communities could build rainwater collection systems, since rainwater has no dangerous trace heavy metals.
  2. People could change some of their food and cooking practices to counteract metals contamination.

Their study also has implications closer to home. What is happening to the people in Uganda with contaminated ground water that is exposed to lava rock layers can be transposed to the United States. Such ground water sources are also prevalent in Washington, Oregon and the Northeast and Southwest regions, Hunter said.

Read all of this article, first published in the WSU Vancouver magazine Northwest Crimson & Gray, at the WSU College of Nursing website at


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