Postcard: visiting New York to help build a new future for Kenya

Three people stand in front of a world map

Joan Kinya Kimathi is the Air Quality laboratory manager for NIHR CLEAN-Air(Africa) Global Health Research Unit. CLEAN-Air(Africa) is a collaboration funded by the UK government to address the major global health challenge from household air pollution.

I run a flagship state-of-the-art Air Quality facility housing Africa’s first air sample filter processing robot. This is part of a brand-new Air Pollution Centre of Excellence (ACE) developed by the University of Liverpool and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) with funding from the NIHR. The ACE is housed at the Centre of Respiratory Diseases at KEMRI Head Quarters in Nairobi.

We’re at the forefront of pioneering efforts to address air pollution’s impact on public health across the region through rigorous data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The Air Pollution Centre of Excellence provides valuable insights into air quality trends, pollutant sources, and potential health impacts. This data empowers policymakers, healthcare professionals, and communities to take proactive measures to protect public health and the environment.

With this significant responsibility for my research team, my country, the region and globe, comes a need to advance my skills. This led me to a transformative training opportunity sponsored by CLEAN-Air (Africa) at Columbia University in the United States for a one-week intensive training program focused on advanced filter handling and processing techniques.

As well as the fantastic opportunity to learn from leaders in the field of air pollution monitoring and analysis including one of the largest air quality labs, the training visit was my first ever trip to the USA (and first venture outside of Kenya) – it was a wonderful experience to visit New York City.

As well as my training broadening my horizons the trip also provided invaluable insights that resonate with my work at the Air Quality Laboratory. Immersed in the vibrant energy and cultural diversity of the bustling metropolis, I experienced first-hand the global impact of environmental stewardship and sustainable urban development. Exploring iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Central Park, I found inspiration in the city’s dynamic atmosphere and limitless growth opportunities. Witnessing innovative approaches to environmental conservation and public health initiatives, I returned with renewed zeal and a fresh perspective, ready to apply lessons learned to drive positive change in Kenya, sub-Saharan Africa, and beyond.

Two people stand in Times Square, New York

A picture with Professor Steve Chillrud at Times Square, New York City

Find out more about NIHR CLEAN-Air(Africa) Global Health Research Unit here

Lead image caption: l-r Professor Steve Chillrud (Columbia Centre Director), Joan Kinya Kimathi, and Dr James Ross (Senior Laboratory Manager at Columbia).