The Kyrgyz Republic has approximately 6 million inhabitants. Part of the country is at high altitude, with areas located 3,000m above sea level. In these highlands, above the treeline, where people live in yurts, locals burn animal dung for fuel for cooking and heating. They live indoors for about 8 months per year. During these months the ventilation hole in their yurts is kept closed to retain the heat, but this also increases their exposure to indoor pollution.

In the highlands, clinical centres are not easily accessible by the population, especially during winter months. The rate of smokers is alarming; nearly half of all the men smoke.  More resources are needed to effectively support quit attempts.

FRESH AIR researchers from Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) visited the Kyrgyz Republic in May 2016. The purpose of the visit was to carry out research to ensure that the implementation of evidence-based interventions that will be carried out during the project will be as suitable as possible for the area.

The delegation was joined by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Kyrgyz National Center of Cardiology and Internal Medicine.

During the 3-week expedition, the delegation visited eight villages and six GP centres. Before starting the research activities, the LUMC team delivered a 2-day workshop on rapid assessment to local researchers. Rapid assessment is a qualitative research approach aimed at gathering a vast amount of in-depth information in a short period of time.

The study included community members, healthcare professionals (nurses and doctors) and leaders of rural villages. The team held numerous one-on-one interviews, group interviews and observations with nurses working in the clinical centres. The team also visited rural primary care practices to observe consultations. An impressive stakeholder engagement group has been set up across the entire country who will help advise on all stages of the project, from implementation through to sharing of any findings, so that the impact of the project lasts beyond the project end. The trip was a real success and the data collected will be analysed in the next months.

Link back to FRESH AIR 1st Newsletter - December 2016