Midlands State University Department of Surveying and Geomatics, Senior Lecturer and Place Alert Labs (PALs) Researcher, Dr. Prestige Tatenda Makanga has been awarded a 3-year grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from the United States of America to investigate the impact of exposure to air pollution on maternal, new-born and child health outcomes.

Titled, ‘Characterizing Effects of Air Quality in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health’ (CHEAQI-MNCH) the project will be co-led by Dr. Tamara Govindasamy from IBM Research in South Africa.

The award was announced at the 3rd Data Science Initiative (DSI) Africa meeting that was held from 3 to 10 November 2023 at the Kigali Serena Hotel, Rwanda.

Transdisciplinary professionals from the research, training and coordinating hubs of the NIH funded DSI Africa consortium were brought together to share research findings and exchange knowledge on the application of data science to impact health across Africa.

CHEAQI-MNCH grant comes as a supplement to the ‘Heat and Health Africa Transdisciplinary (HE2AT) Center’ research consortium within DSI Africa that includes CeSHHAR Zimbabwe, University of Cape Town, University of Witwatersrand and IBM Research Africa.

HE2AT centre is a 5-year project which involves the conduction of an Individual Participant Data (IPD) Meta analysis of 222 pregnancy and birth cohorts and clinical trials across Africa, evaluating the potential impact of exposure to extreme heat on health outcomes.

CHEAQI-MNCH will add complimentary questions on air quality and its effects on the same health outcomes.

Midlands State University’s Place Alert Labs (PALs) will be a new partner within the HE2AT consortium and will leverage big geospatial datasets on pollution exposure gathered from the previous PRECISE (Pregnancy Care Integration Translational Science Everywhere) project, where Dr Makanga was the spatial epidemiology Co-Investigator.

In addition to this award, Mr Liberty Makacha, a Researcher within PALs and a joint PhD candidate at King’s College London and Imperial College London, was also awarded a 1year pilot grant from HE2AT to explore new Spatial Data Science approaches integrating land use metrics and deep learning models for characterizing heat and pollution exposure.

Both awards will add Post-Doctoral and Doctoral Students, as well as Data Scientists and interns to Midlands State University’s PALs, strengthening data science capacity and applications to health research.


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