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Two of fourteen Science and Technology Pioneers Prizes were awarded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Science and Technology to the MEASURE Evaluation project, implemented by the Carolina Population Center. The prize is awarded to projects and activities funded by USAID that apply science and technology to development challenges of our age.

“MEASURE Evaluation addresses global health challenges in resource-poor settings in a wide variety of cultures,” said Jim Thomas, MEASURE Evaluation Director. “We must constantly innovate in ways that are practical, effective and affordable. To have been awarded USAID Science and Technology Pioneers Prizes is strong affirmation that we are among the best in what we do.”

The PLACE Method received a Grand Prize for its ability to use data to identify areas with high HIV and sexually transmitted infections incidence, including venues and events where people meet new sexual or needle-sharing partners. Developed by Sharon Weir, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and CPC Fellow, the PLACE method assesses prevention outreach within these venues using low-cost global positioning system receivers and free Google Earth software and creates coverage maps showing gaps in prevention programs. With its focus on local populations and rapid assessment methodology, PLACE allows strategic planners to accurately assess the most-at-risk areas and deliver timely HIV preventative and treatment responses. PLACE is currently being deployed in Uganda following successful application in South Africa. It has been replicated in 28 countries and has mapped over 100 target areas.

“It’s a great honor to receive the Pioneers Prize,” said Weir. “We’ve been working on the PLACE method since 1999, and it’s very gratifying that USAID has recognized it with this prize.”

The Compartment Bag Test (CBT) is a water quality testing device that received mention as a Runner-up. Developed by Mark Sobsey, PhD, Distinguished Kenan Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, the water quality test detects fecal bacteria in water and other environmental samples. It can be conducted by anyone with minimal training and is a less expensive and more accessible alternative to other water quality tests. The tests have been used in more than two dozen countries.

“I am delighted and most grateful that the CBT has been selected as a Pioneer Prize Runner-up winner,” says Sobsey. “It is wonderful to see such recognition for a simple, portable and field usable technology that can bring microbial water quality testing to so many places where it is not done. Safe water is so important to preventing waterborne infectious disease that we must have tools to identify when water is safe and when it is not. We hope the use of the CBT as such a tool will have a positive impact in helping protect human health from waterborne disease.”

The work of both Weir and Sobsey is supported by the USAID Global Health Bureau’s MEASURE Evaluation project implemented by UNC’s Carolina Population Center.