Improving Environmental Health Practice and Policy through Convergence Research: A Case Study of Linked Food-Water Systems Enhancing Child Health


Promoting access to safe drinking water or access to nutritious food, each independently contribute uniquely to positive gains in human health. Nexus analysis -- a systems-based approach to study interconnection and interdependence -- provides a framework to expose interactions and interventions in linked food-water systems. Interactions result in unintentional changes in efficacy or toxicity creating poorer-than-expected health outcomes while synergistic interventions targeting both "water, sanitation, and hygiene" as well as "food security, nutrition, and safety" yield greater-than-anticipated improvements in health and wellness. Herein, we describe a case study of linked food-water systems, where discovery, integration, application, and the scholarship of teaching and learning, collectively enhanced child health through convergence research - a transdisciplinary approach to solve a compelling and specific problem. The method integrates five techniques predominant in the field of health care, including: (1) community-based participatory research, (2) structured reviews, (3) mixed methods, (4) structural equation modeling, and (5) interprofessional education - at multiple study sites in east Africa, Guatemala, Brazil, and South Africa. The compelling problem explored is, "the lack of an overarching framework to achieve improvements in interdisciplinary environmental health practice and policy," to ultimately solve specific problems such as, "the eradication of childhood stunting." Results demonstrate that convergence research improves environmental health practice and policy by exposing insights to be measured, validated, and disseminated.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering


The authors wish to acknowledge the financial support of the National Science Foundation award numbers 0538532 and 1102690; the John A. and Susan Mathes Endowment from Missouri S&T; the University of Missouri South Africa Exchange Program; the Schowalter Foundation; and the Conflict and Development Foundation of Texas A&M.

Keywords and Phrases

Childhood Stunting; Community-Based Participatory Research; Interprofessional Education; Mixed Methods; Structural Equation Modeling; Structured Reviews

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1092-8758; 1557-9018

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2019 Mary Ann Liebert Inc., All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jul 2019