261976 Water Scarcity in a Mumbai Slum: Effects on Women's Health and Hygiene

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Colleen O'Connor, MPH , Health Impact Study, Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, Rocky Hill, CT
Tess Thompson, MPhil , Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Stephen Schensul, PhD, Professor , Community Medicine and Healthcare, University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT
Background: Over half of Mumbai residents live in slums, where reliable access to hygienic water and improved sanitation is limited. The burden of collecting water falls primarily on women and girls, is time-consuming and results in missed educational and economic opportunities. This study explored the role of access to clean water and sanitation in one Mumbai slum.

Methods: Researchers conducted a secondary analysis of 66 interview transcripts. Interviewers had asked women living in a Mumbai slum open-ended questions about daily routines and family life. Researchers examined water-related themes by coding and analyzing transcripts using Atlas.ti.

Results: Initial results indicate that women spend an enormous amount of time collecting water and engaged in water-related household and personal hygiene activities. The uncertainty surrounding the availability of water is a primary concern. Unexpected themes emerged such as the importance of water for religious customs such as ritual cleansing. The expectation that women wash themselves and their bedding after intercourse affected sexual practices and in some cases compromised their personal safety.

Discussion: Access to clean water and improved sanitation are fundamental pillars of maternal and child health. The considerable time spent on water-related duties and hygiene prevents women from engaging in paid work and thus improving the family's economic status and health. indings about the effect of water on women's sexual practices were surprising and warrant further investigation. Future maternal health interventions promoting prevention and wellness across the lifespan in Mumbai slums must take into consideration both women's water duties and their water needs.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1) Explain the health and related impacts that lack of access to hygienic water and improved sanitation has on women living in a Mumbai slum. 2) Discuss how religious and cultural norms related to hygiene impacts women’s sexual practices when water and sanitation are not available on a household level.

Keywords: Water, International MCH

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: This research was completed as a student in the MPH program at the University of Connecticut. I have ten years of experience in the public health field and have completed international public health work. Among my scientific interests are impacts of water and sanitation on maternal and child health, improving pregnancy and delivery practices for women in the developing world, and improving access to care for children with special healthcare needs.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.