Environmental Protection

Dr. Rita Colwell

Rita Colwell, Public Health Champion, Wins Stockholm Prize

Dr. Rita Colwell 

Dr. Rita Cowell. Photo courtesy of University of Maryland.

Rita Colwell, Ph.D., distinguished professor from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States, has been named the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.

Colwell’s pioneering research on the prevention of waterborne infectious diseases has helped protect the health and lives of millions.

Colwell, 76, is widely recognized as one of this century’s most influential voices in science, technology, and policy associated with water and health. She has made exceptional contributions to control the spread of cholera, a waterborne pathogen that infects 3 to 5 million people and leads to an estimated 120,000 deaths each year. Through her groundbreaking research, innovations and decades of scientific leadership, she has defined our current understanding of the ecology of infectious diseases and developed the use of advanced technologies to halt their spread. Her work has established the basis for environmental and infectious disease risk assessment used around the world.

“Dr. Rita Colwell’s numerous seminal contributions toward solving the world’s water and water-related public health problems, particularly her work to prevent the spread of cholera, is of utmost global importance,” noted the Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee in its citation.

Colwell has shown that certain bacteria, including the causative agent for cholera, can be present in natural environments in a dormant stage that could revert to an infectious state under the proper conditions. As a result of her work, scientists are now able to link changes in the natural environment to the spread of disease. Colwell was the first scientist to research the impacts of climate change on the spread of infectious diseases. She has also developed models to track and predict disease outbreaks, using remote sensing technology and satellite models.

H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will formally present Dr. Colwell with the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize on September 9 during the 2010 World Water Week in Stockholm. The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute. The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives US$150,000 and a crystal sculpture specially designed by Orrefors.

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