Spotlight Series: Environmental Health

PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre Spotlight Series 

Reference Number: BRA-62

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC on Environmental and Public Health
Institution: Vice presidency of Reference and Environment Services, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ)

Reference Number: MEX-21

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC on Health Risk Assessment and Children’s Environmental Health
Institution: Departamento de Toxicología Ambiental, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí

Reference Number: USA-381

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC for Environmental Health Sciences
Institution: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

Reference Number: MEX-18

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC for Research and Training in Environmental Epidemiology
Institution: Dirección de Salud Ambiental, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública (INSP)

Reference Number: CAN-95*

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC on Children’s Environmental Health
Institution: Children’s Environmental Health Clinic, Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta

Reference Number: URU-2

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC in Human Environmental Toxicology
Institution: Departamento de Toxicología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de la República

Reference Number: CAN-53

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC on Environmental and Occupational Health Impact Assessment and Surveillance
Institution: Health and Environmental Group, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec (CHUQ)

Reference Number: USA-350

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC in Environmental Health
Institution: Institute for Health & the Environment, University of Albany


Category 1 (SP 14-19)

Outcome 18 (SP 20-25)

Dr. Agnes Soares

Dr. Agnes Soares, Regional Advisor, Environmental Epidemiology, is the PAHO staff member who acts as the Region’s focal point and also supports the WHO focal point to coordinate the collaboration between the institution and the Organization.

The main activities of these Centres include: (1) developing publications and guidelines; (2) providing technical expertise; (3) developing online training courses; (4) updating and translating air quality tools; and (5) responding to environmental emergencies.

The Centre at FIOCRUZ is the reference centre for environmental public health on a regional and global level. The collaboration between the Centre and PAHO has led to the publication of a book series on Health, Environment and Sustainability (in process of being translated into English and Spanish), a publication focused on 20 years of environmental health surveillance in Brazil and a chapter in Climate Change risks in Brazil (2019) titled “A review of the health sector impacts of 40 °C or more temperature rise.” The Centre also provides expertise on chemical surveys on levels of persistent pesticides (i.e. chemical levels in human milk within Brazil) and developed prediction models applied to yellow fever, in collaboration with colleagues at PAHO/WHO, Missouri University and the Imperial College of London. The Centre also hosts the regional observatory on climate change and health and has hosted a regional meeting for all the Collaborating Centres focused on environmental health.

The Centre at INSP in collaboration with PAHO and a network of environmental epidemiologists, developed the online self-learning course “Environmental Epidemiology” on PAHO’s Virtual Campus which currently has 7,491 registered participants. In addition, the Centre and PAHO have collaborated on a course focused on climate change and health. The Centre has strong expertise related to ambient air pollution and among others, the Director of the Centre collaborates with WHO as a member of the WHO Air Quality Guidelines Development Group, and served as an expert for a consultation on risk communication and intervention to reduce exposure and to minimize the health effects of air pollution. The Center has contributed with PAHO with a paper on air pollution management and control in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Centre has also collaborated with WHO on the updating and translating of the AirQ+ tool into Spanish in order to assess the health impact of air pollution on health in the Region and collaborated with UN environment to write a report on the health effects of short-lived climate pollutants (including black carbon) in the Americas.

The Centre at CHUQ organized a scientific meeting with PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centres in the Region focusing on climate change and health which resulted in a report and a special issue of the Pan American Journal of Public Health. The Centre developed an online self-learning course on the health impact assessment of mining operations (transfer in process to PAHO’s Virtual Campus) and participated in the regional workshop on chronic kidney disease of non-traditional causes. The Centre also participated in the WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network, collaborating in the development of risk assessment methodologies. The Centre has supported environmental health emergencies on many occasions, including fires in dumpsites in Barbados and allergy concerns due to mold in schools’ buildings in the Caribbean. In terms of publications, PAHO and the Centre have also collaborated on publishing a study on pesticide exposure and chronic kidney disease in Central America and developing a pocketbook for health practitioners on climate change and health (in process). Lastly, the staff at the Centre have supported the development of regulations on mining issues in Colombia and training of technical people from different Ministries involved in the implementation of Health Impact Assessments in Colombia.

The Centre at the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí has responded to emergencies related to environmental health with the need for a rapid health impact assessment including chemical hazards due to hurricanes, fires, and mining. The Centre has also collaborated with WHO to develop methodologies to mitigate the risk of children’s exposure to electronic waste and contaminated sites with lead and has collaborated with PAHO and Health Canada on a project to develop instruments to assess risks and incorporate clinical and surveillance instruments in primary health care settings in highly contaminated settings (mining areas and dumpsites).

The Centre at the University of Alberta works mainly with WHO and participates in the WHO Network on Children’s Health, Environment and Safety (INCHES).

The Centre at the University of Albany is a reference for work on children’s health related to the environment. The Center participates in the Network on Children’s Health, Environment and Safety (INCHES) by developing online training modules and supporting the implementation of the translated training modules in the Region. The Centre has collaborated with PAHO and Health Canada in Bolivia to present results of studies in river basin communities located close to mining sites, acting as a reference for PAHO for mercury exposure levels in children related to mining.

The Centre at NIEHS participates in the WHO International Network on Children’s Health, Environment and Safety (INCHES), with particular emphasis on early child development issues and has published a review with PAHO on “Enhancing the sustainability and climate resiliency of health care facilities: a comparison of initiatives and toolkits.” The Centre has supported the implementation of the WHO guidelines for household indoor air quality through workshops and seminars and joined efforts with the Central American Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances (IRET), SEARO and PAHO, to organize and fund the participation of a number of scientists in the Third International Workshop on Chronic Kidney Diseases of Uncertain/Non-traditional Etiology in Mesoamerica and Other Regions.

The Centre at the Universidad de la República participates in the WHO International Network on Children’s Health, Environment and Safety (INCHES), having translated training materials on children’s health and the environment to Spanish. The Centre has collaborated closely with PAHO in the development and implementation of instruments to assess environmental risks to children in primary health care settings in Bolivia. The Center has supported PAHO in the assessment of the status of children’s health and the environment and participates in a network of environmental pediatric units. The Centre has also adapted and adopted a national version of the WHO “CEH Green Page” in Uruguay and has trained health personnel, incorporating the instrument in primary health care settings.

Webnotes such as these serve to inform on how CCs are contributing to the Organization’s priorities and mandates.

*CC expired.