Ecuador is a geographically diverse country in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west, and including the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific. Continental Ecuador is divided into three distinct regions: la Costa (the coast, characterized by its coastal plains), la Sierra (the mountains), and el Oriente (Amazonian jungle in the east). These natural divisions in terrain have created dramatic differences in social and environmental conditions – and related health inequities – within a country that is roughly the size of Colorado.

Collaborative Research

At Rutgers Global Health Institute, we are involved in research and collaborations that are shedding light on health problems in Ecuador – and the many social and environmental factors that shape them. This work can inform policy and humanitarian action to improve the health of the country’s people.

Gwenyth Lee’s research explores the compounding impacts of multiple early-life exposures on child development. She is a co-investigator on two birth cohort studies in northern coastal Ecuador. These studies operate along a rural-urban gradient that includes the city of Esmeraldas, the medium-sized town of Borbón, and multiple rural communities inaccessible by roads.

Much of Lee’s current research involves enteric infections and their impact on child growth and development. Through this work, she investigates many related factors:

  • Social factors, including nutritional access, food insecurity, water insecurity, access to health services, and disease transmission
  • Environmental factors, including household conditions, behaviors related to hygiene and water use, and community-level water and sanitation infrastructure
  • Gut health, including how diseases affect the microbiome and how the microbiome in turn affects health outcomes
  • Mental health, including how water insecurity affects maternal stress and how maternal stress affects behaviors related to water use in caring for children

Collaborating partners

The institute’s research in Ecuador involves a team of collaborators from: