Public Health at the Kumbh Mela

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About the Team

Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights is dispatching a team of doctors, researchers, and medical students to India to document the public health dynamics of the largest human gathering on earth. The Kumbh Mela Public Health (KMPH) team will conduct the first qualitative and quantitative study of the public health parameters of the Kumbh Mela, a month-long Hindu festival that draws tens of millions of worshippers to Allahabad, India to bathe in the sacred waters of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.

The FXB Center is coordinating and funding a collaborative team composed of faculty from the medical colleges of Harvard, Allahabad, UCSF, Stanford, and Cornell; medical students from Allahabad, Mumbai, Boston, and New York City; and IT and media consultants from Mumbai, Dhaka, and New York City.

The primary objective of the KMPH team is to document the outbreak and patterns of disease by mapping the complaints, diagnoses, medications, and geographical origins of patients flocking to the organized sector clinics and the central hospital of the Kumbh. Volunteer medical students from Allahabad, Mumbai, and New York City are using iPads to collect this information from clinic registries and upload it to a central database. For the qualitative component of the study, the KMPH team is investigating the systems in place for water distribution, sanitation, reuniting lost children with families, and mitigating the chances of stampede and mass casualties.

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