Research on the interdisciplinary aspects of world health at the Kumbh Mela and the development of educational materials are co-sponsored by the Harvard Global Health Institute, as part of its priority focus on urbanization, together with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The public health challenges and opportunities of the Mela are enormous.  There were multiple teams focusing on different aspects of health that were part of Harvard’s Mapping India’s Kumbh Mela project.

The first team gathered data about the temporary hospitals at the Kumbh.  At this year’s festival, ten sector hospitals were constructed, each of which saw between 500-800 patients each day.  Over the course of 20 days and with the help of 20 students from Allahabad Medical College and the Rotaract Club of Mumbai, this team collected data from over 20,000 patients on their ipads from four separate hospitals, using a program that stored all of their data in one central database.  This was an ideal case study of a cost-effective method for capturing the healthcare needs of thousands of Kumbh attendees in real time.  One of the major concerns in any urban area is the spread of epidemics.  The method employed by this team provides an effective early warning system for public health officials all over the world to use to track and prevent major outbreaks of diseases.


The Team:

Jennifer Leaning, FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at Harvard School of Public Health; Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University

Satchit Balsari, Fellow, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights; Director, Weill Cornell Global Emergency Medicine Program

Gregg Greenough, Fellow, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights; Director of Research, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Pooja Agrawal, Clinical Instructor in Emergency Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine

Aaron Heerboth, Medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College

Rishi Madhok, Chief Resident, NewYork-Presbyterian Emergency Medicine Residency

Dhruv Kazi, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Division of Cardiology, University of California San Francisico

Neil Murthy, MPH student, Harvard School of Public Health

Logan Plaster, Publisher, Emergency Physicians International

Michael Vortmann, Director, Weill Cornell Wilderness Emergency Medicine Program


In collaboration with:

The National Disaster Management Authority

The Rotaract Club of the Caduceus, Mumbai


And faculty and students from:

Motilal Nehru Medical College Community Medicine Department

Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture


Photo Credit: Sam Higginbottom

Blog entries from this team:


Another team mapped and documented the various kinds of toilets being used at the Kumbh, as well as the provisions that were made by public health officials for potable drinking water.  While the number of toilets was insufficient during large bathing days, the team was impressed by the implementation of this infrastructure.  The lessons learned from the building of these systems on a mass scale in a short amount of time are huge for the developing world.


The Team:

Faculty Lead: Richard Cash, MD, MPH, Senior Lecturer, Harvard School of Public Health

Student Researchers: Candace Brown, Stephanie Cheng and Leila Shayegan


Blog entries from this team:


Harvard Gazette news article on these teams: