Integrating environmental health and genomics research in Africa: Challenges and opportunities identified during a Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Consortium workshop

Bonnie R. Joubert, Kiros Berhane, Jonathan Chevrier, Gwen Collman, Brenda Eskenazi, Julius Fobil, Cathrine Hoyo, Chandy C. John, Abera Kumie, Mark Nicol, Michèle Ramsay, Joshua Smith, Adrie Steyn, Desire Tshala-Katumbay, Kimberly McAllister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Individuals with African ancestry have extensive genomic diversity but have been underrepresented in genomic research. There is also extensive global diversity in the exposome (the totality of human environmental exposures from conception onwards) which should be considered for integrative genomic and environmental health research in Africa. To address current research gaps, we organized a workshop on environmental health research in Africa in conjunction with the H3Africa Consortium and the African Society of Human Genetics meetings in Kigali, Rwanda. The workshop was open to all researchers with an interest in environmental health in Africa and involved presentations from experts within and outside of the Consortium. This workshop highlighted innovative research occurring on the African continent related to environmental health and the interplay between the environment and the human genome. Stories of success, challenges, and collaborative opportunities were discussed through presentations, breakout sessions, poster presentations, and a panel discussion. The workshop informed participants about environmental risk factors that can be incorporated into current or future epidemiology studies and addressed research design considerations, biospecimen collection and storage, biomarkers for measuring chemical exposures, laboratory strategies, and statistical methodologies. Inclusion of environmental exposure measurements with genomic data, including but not limited to H3Africa projects, can offer a strong platform for building gene-environment (G x E) research in Africa. Opportunities to leverage existing resources and add environmental exposure data for ongoing and planned studies were discussed. Future directions include expanding the measurement of both genomic and exposomic risk factors and incorporating sophisticated statistical approaches for analyzing high dimensional G x E data. A better understanding of how environmental and genomic factors interact with nutrition and infection is also needed. Considering that the environment represents many modifiable risk factors, these research findings can inform intervention and prevention efforts towards improving global health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number159
JournalAAS Open Research
StatePublished - 2019


  • Africa
  • Environmental health
  • G x E
  • Gene-environment interactions
  • Global environmental health
  • H3Africa
  • Workshop

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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