A Multidisciplinary Approach to Provide Sustainable Access to Safe Water in a Developing Country

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Vicki L. Simpson, PhD, RN
Elizabeth A. Richards, PhD, RN
School of Nursing, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to describe a multidisciplinary educational approach to global health initiatives.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to discuss the role of the public health nurse in supporting sustainability of global health initiatives.

Nurses have a unique opportunity to fulfill their social responsibility as health promoters by collaborating with other disciplines to create sustainable solutions to global health issues such as access to safe drinking water. Nursing schools have an obligation to educate students in global health issues; however, the opportunity to be involved in projects is often limited. In addition, academic-community partnerships addressing global health issues are often unsustainable due to lack of multidisciplinary involvement.

An innovative educational strategy for integrating global health across disciplines, including public health nursing, has been created at a Midwest University.  This multidisciplinary service-learning class representing diverse academic disciplines (nursing, agricultural economics, biological sciences, engineering) is currently developing a community-scale water treatment system for use at rural sites in the Dominican Republic (DR). Class activities include a site visit to a partnering non-profit organization and a reconnaissance trip to the DR to meet the residents, collect baseline data, and establish means of regular communication. Students are currently conducting experiments to evaluate the feasibility of different water filtration mechanisms and designing implementation and evaluation strategies.  The students will travel to Washington, D.C. to compete for further funding to return to the DR for implementation.

The multidisciplinary nature of this project provides for new teaching/learning opportunities. Students have the opportunity to work with and understand the perspectives of each discipline involved and the necessity of these disciplines working together to increase the chance for success, sustainability and maximum health impact for populations in developing countries.