Quantifying Contact with the Environment: Behaviors of Young Children in Accra, Ghana
Authors: Peter Teunis, Heather Reese, Claire A. Null, Habib Yakubu, Christine L. Moe
Abstract: To better understand the risks of exposure for young children to fecal contamination in their environment, we systematically characterized and quantified behaviors of 154 children, 0-5 years old, in four high-density, low-income neighborhoods in Accra, Ghana. A repertoire of six different activities and five different compartments (categories of locations within the household) was developed, and about 500 hours of ordered structured observations of activities and locations of individual children were collected. These records were analyzed using a competing hazards model, estimating (Weibull) hazard rates for each state (activity/compartment combination), dependent on the present state and the preceding state. The estimated rates were used to simulate sequences of behavior and describe days in the life of a child in low-income, urban Africa. Children younger than 1 year spent most time playing or sleeping off the ground, older children frequently played on floors. Relatively little time was spent in drains or wet trash areas. Critical combinations of activities, like handwashing after defecation or before eating were estimated to occur rarely. These quantitative behavior estimates can inform future risk assessments that examine the relative roles of various fecal-oral exposure pathways in low-income urban settings.