Drs. Kajal Mehta, Nikki Thrikutam and Barclay Stewart, HIPRC core member, along with partners from Ghana, Nepal, International Society for Burn Injuries (ISBI) and World Health Organization (WHO) were awarded the American Burn Association Peter Brigham Burn Epidemiology Award for their work on cookstove-related injuries. Cookstove-related burns are among the most common causes of burn injuries globally, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. There is a worldwide push to disseminate more efficient, improved cookstoves and liquid propane gas (LPG) stoves that reduce indoor air pollution, promote gender equality and reduce deforestation. However, improved and LPG cookstoves do not seem to be safer than rudimentary cooking arrangements (e.g., 3-stone fires) and use of biomass fuels.
Their study utilized the newly developed WHO Global Burn Registry (GBR) to describe the distribution cookstove-related hazards, injuries and outcomes of patients from 17 countries. They found that women were more frequently exposed to cookstove hazards, and that cookstove-related injuries were larger in size and more often deadly than non-cookstove-related burn injuries. Additionally, cookstove-related burn injuries were strongly associated with explosions and fires (i.e., not scald or contact injuries), which is thought to be the result of unsafe LPG cookstove maintenance and arrangements. The findings suggest that interventions to prevent cookstove-related burn injuries will require efforts distinct to those typically deployed for household burn injuries more broadly, which will necessarily involve improving cookstove design, promoting safer adaptations of existing cookstoves, and drafting LPG national policy guidelines to prevent fires and explosions from unsafe canisters, regulators and tubing. As their next step, the team is working with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital Burns Unit, and Ghana Fire Service to perform a community-based, case-control study with home fire investigations to identify hazards and protective factors that can be used to inform engineering, health promotion and policy initiatives.