Event Recap

Explore the Q&A sheet…

On January 17, EPIC’s Clean Air Program hosted a webinar to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with global air quality gaps. Following the recent release of a report, ‘The Case for Closing Global Air Quality Data Gaps with Local Actors: A Golden Opportunity for the Philanthropic Community,’ the webinar served as a platform for select local actors and experts to share their experiences through insightful case studies, highlighting effective strategies in addressing air pollution.

Christa Hasenkopf, Director of the Clean Air Program at EPIC, kicked off the webinar with an overview of pollution’s impact on health and life expectancy, and the lack of philanthropic funding dedicated to addressing the issue.

“There is a profound mismatch between where air pollution is an issue, and where resources – such as open data, policies, and funding – are deployed to address it,” said Hasenkopf, who went on to discuss the recent report that identifies locations with the greatest opportunity to improve air pollution monitoring and data access.

EPIC Air Quality Consultant Farah Kazi, co-author of the report and webinar moderator, continued the discussion starting with Deo Okure. Okure, Air Quality Scientist and Program Manager at Airqo, explained how AirQo engages with stakeholders to foster synergies to promote clean air in Africa.

Okure discussed his research findings on air quality management strategies in Africa, showcasing a strong focus on air quality monitoring technologies and a limited amount of effort put towards policies and education on air quality management.

“What this tells us is that there is a lot of work to be done,” said Okure. “You can’t have policies when you don’t have the right data sets, the right resources, and the right capacity…[addressing data gaps] is not just about deploying sensors. This data must be made accessible, and in a usable format that can be understood by the public.”

Next, Pallavi Pant, Head of the Global Health Program at the Health Effects Institute, shared a story about an Uber driver to showcase pollution’s impact on health, economics and wellbeing.

“In all of the trips we took together, I realized this person had moved from a small town to Delhi for economic opportunity, a good job and good life. But this person couldn’t adjust and adapt to the high levels of particulate pollution,” Pant said. “We can talk about the 7-8 million people who die due to air pollution, but the fact is that air pollution is impacting us not just through mortality. It also forces us to make choices we wouldn’t make if air pollution wasn’t there. How and where we translate and communicate this message is equally important to data access. If the message is not getting across to the policymaker and to the average citizen, we are not doing our job.”.

Continuing the discussion on the importance of collaboration with policymakers, Sunkaru Touray, Co-Founder of the Permian Health Lung Institute and a pulmonologist, explained the pivotal role governments play in air pollution monitoring and data access.

“In the United States, I can input my patient’s address into the computer and tell you the air quality that you are breathing. I tried that in the Gambia, and drew a blank,” Touray said.

In addition to treating patients, the Lung Institute is working to solve this data access problem through an air quality monitoring network. Collaborating with the Gambian government, all data collected from the monitors is shared publicly.

Next, Christian Saravia, Founder of Ambente, discussed his work with various air quality technologies. Savaria explored the differences and limitations of ground-based, satellite-based and model-based monitoring technologies.

“The future of air quality monitoring will require a variety of technologies,” Saravia said. “A hybrid approach that leverages all technologies, in addition to more publicly available data, will make for the best possible outcome.”

The final panelist, Rose Alani of the University of Lagos’ Air Quality Monitoring Research Group, contributed to the discussion on how evidence-based and participatory approaches can lead to impact.

“We do not give much attention to air quality issues in Nigeria,” Alani said. “Because of that, we have scarcity of air quality data. To make evidence-informed policies, it requires evidence-based, participatory approaches.”

Alani demonstrated how including multi-stakeholder groups – such as schools, governments, academia, medical practitioners, youth groups and NGOs— in air quality projects from start to finish leads to deeper collaboration, understanding and impact.

“Everybody is ready to take action to reduce poor air quality in their own communities.”

Areas of Focus: Environment
Definition
Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Air Pollution
Definition
Air Pollution
Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion poses a grave threat to human health worldwide. EPIC research is using real-world data to calculate the effects of air pollution on human health...
Air Quality Monitoring and Data Access
Definition
Air Quality Monitoring and Data Access