Whenever large groups of people gather, sanitation — and the potential health problems caused by poor sanitation — are an issue. So when Harvard School of Public Health’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights organized a team to document public health issues at India’s massive Kumbh Mela religious festival, Senior Lecturer Richard Cash saw the perfect opportunity to introduce his students to down-and-dirty field work.
Cash’s students spent their week at the festival observing the conditions at every public toilet, from the high tech to the rustic, and taking note of how they were used.
“When you deal in human waste,” Cash told the Harvard Gazette in a March 1, 2013 article, “There’s no end to the fascination.”
The HSPH team also included Gregg Greenough, an emergency physician and assistant professor of global health and population, who worked with colleagues to collect the medical records of pilgrims at the Kumbh and map the spread of health complaints in real time.