Exploring the health outcomes of shared sanitation

Marieke Heijnen, a PHD student and research assistant within the Environmental Health Group, has recently collaborated on a systematic review which looks at the health outcomes of shared sanitation use. The piece which was published in PLOSone, brings together the limited available research in this critical area

Below Marieke explains the significance of this systematic review and how it will contribute to further research in this area. 

marieke_heijnenAs part of the planning for the Sustainable Development Goals (post-MDG), shared sanitation (a sanitation facility shared by two or more households) may be considered ‘improved’ sanitation, depending on various factors including number of users. Limited research has been done on the subject, but this systematic literature review shows that users of shared sanitation facilities experience worse health outcomes (diarrhea, helminth infections, enteric fevers etc.) than those using private sanitation facilities. Though the reasons for this apparent increase in risk are unclear, further research is required to understand how to best provide sanitation facilities which are safe and hygienic for all to use, in settings where private sanitation may not be feasible.

What were the key things you personally learnt while conducting the systematic review?

One of the main lessons I took away from doing this review was to not underestimate the time it takes to do these things properly. Though of course a little dependent on the topic and the number of databases, if you search for something which may be known under various names or has limited (published) research on it, it can be a lengthy task. But I did enjoy the ‘systematic’ element of it- you go through everything one step at a time and then move on to the next stage.

Marieke’s full article is available here.


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