Cambridge Program to Assist Bangladesh in Lifestyle and Environmental Risk Reduction

Bangladesh, a country of ~165M people, is facing a major and rapidly growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, and neoplastic diseases. A key contribution is Bangladesh’s distinctive environmental and lifestyle risk profile, one of the worst worldwide exemplified by:

Water and air pollution: According to the WHO, arsenic-contaminated water in Bangladesh, which affects ~100M people, is “the largest mass poisoning of a human population in history”. Furthermore, a 2016 WHO report on ambient air pollution judged Bangladesh to be the fourth worst polluted country worldwide.

Nutritional disorders: Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread, including iron-deficiency. An evolving and complex background of persisting undernutrition and emerging obesity also increase NCD risks.

Risk behaviours: Risk behaviours for NCDs that can lead to metabolic dysfunction (eg, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco consumption) are either common, increasing rapidly, or both. “Western” lifestyles may act synergistically with traditional behaviours to amplify disease risk.

Cambridge Programme to Assist Bangladesh in Lifestyle and Environmental risk reduction (CAPABLE) programme aims to address this challenge by focusing on intertwined risk factors for NCDs related to social, environmental, and behavioural factors not previously considered in an integrated framework. These factors tend to cluster in households, shared determinants, exert additive and synergistic effects, and involve co-dependencies and are mediated by contextual variation – such as across rural, urban, and slum settings. The programme will create new research platforms and use a multidisciplinary approach in Bangladesh to address two key Sustainable Development Goals (“Clean air, water and sanitation” and “Sustainable health and wellbeing”).


The CAPABLE initiative is supported by a £8M grant from the Research Councils-UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund programme.