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Unisa online - Our living environment and our health

Dr Agricola Odoi

The College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) hosted their African Visiting Scholar of the month lecture series on 25 June 2012. The lecture sought to analyse the relationship between where people reside and the possible health risks this might pose.

The lecture was presented by Dr Agricola Odoi, Associate Professor of epidemiology at the University of Tennessee and an adjunct faculty at East Tennessee State University. His lecture was entitled “Does where you live affect your health & that of your animals?” GIS technology in health and veterinary research.

He said that based on the research he has done, it shows that the places where people or animals live does have an impact on their health, especially people who live far from health care facilities. He added that those who suffer from strokes might not get immediate help if they live far from hospitals. “Stroke and heart attack are conditions that need immediate attention and if patients are not treated quickly, they might not survive.”

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are used to gather and store data, and analyse that data. He explained that the GIS uses a method of network analysis that calculates the travelling time from different neighbourhoods to the nearest health facilities. The results are also displayed in a map format providing easy access for all people. He said that the maps on display help health practitioners to respond to the outbreaks of any disease.

Responding to the paper, Dr Godfrey Netswera (Director: Research Administration, Unisa) agreed that where people or animals live affects their health. “This is not a simplistic response and it should not be. Scholars should try their best to provide thought through responses and be backed by empirical evidence.” He added that as a sociologist, he was tempted, upfront, before listening to the scholarship of Dr Odio, to size up the matter and “look at the question from a social and economic reference point.”

Dr Agricola Odoi earned his veterinary degree in 1993 from Makerere University (Uganda), MSc in epidemiology from University of Nairobi (Kenya) in 1998 and PhD in epidemiology from the University of Guelph (Canada) in 2002. Before joining the University of Tennessee, Dr Odoi taught epidemiology and public health at Makerere University (Uganda) and was a public health epidemiologist in Ontario (Canada). He is a director and awards chair of the Association of Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (AVEPM). Dr Odoi also serves as a senior staff member of the National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). His research interest is in health disparities and especially the effect of where people live on the health of people and animals. Dr Odoi serves as an expert scientific reviewer for a number of research grant funding agencies including the National Institute of Health (USA), the American Heart Association (USA), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture (Canada), and Innovational Research Incentives Programme (The Netherlands). He is also an Associate Editor of the African Journal of Agricultural Research and is an editorial board member of several international scientific journals.

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