Tropical diseases such as hookworm exist in the rural South according to a just released Baylor University study. The findings highlight health risks from a lack of wastewater infrastructure.

“Hookworm is a 19th century disease that should by now have been addressed, yet we are still struggling with it in the United States in the 21st century.” Says Catherine Coleman Flowers, the founder and director of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE). “Our billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates fund water treatment around the world, but they don’t fund it here in the US because no one acknowledges that this level of poverty exists in the richest nation in the world.”

Flowers is the 2017 FHI Practitioner in Residence at Duke University. She is working with faculty, students and staff to address the interlaced physical, financial, legal, and political barriers to sanitation access and evaluate potential solutions to improve wastewater treatment in Lowndes County, Alabama.  

“We see this as a rights violation of the basic human right to clean water and sanitation” says Erika Weinthal, Professor of Environmental Policy and lead faculty on this initiative.

Since 2014 The Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute has partnered with ACRE to protect the rights of Lowndes County citizens and work towards environmental improvements that ensure access to wastewater infrastructure. Learn more about the partnership with the Duke Human Rights Center at Franklin Humanities Institute here.

The project is also supported by the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Duke Law School, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Read the Guardian article covering the Baylor study: “Hookworm, a disease of extreme poverty, is thriving in the US south. Why?”

For more information, please contact Emily Stewart at