Photos document CDC's worldwide projects

With her bright red dress, big smile and little packets of micronutrients, she is a well-known figure in the Nyanza province of western Kenya.

Those packets, "sprinkled" on the corn porridge that is the staple of the Kenyan diet, help fortify the starchy food, giving children essential nutrients that radically increase their ability to focus in school and even add to their adult height. Mama Sprinkles' role is as an intermediary. She buys these packets, for about 2 cents each, from one of the community health partners of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then resells them -- with the consummate skill of a Roberto Goizueta -- for a few pennies in profit.

Through this program, the CDC improves nutrition and creates a mini-career for Mama Sprinkles and others. "She was just a great person," said photographer David Snyder, who documented the impact of Mama Sprinkles as part of a yearlong, seven-country project that shows the human side of the work that the CDC does around the world.

"Assignment: CDC," an exhibition of Snyder's photographs, opened recently at the Global Health Odyssey Museum, on the CDC campus, with images from the slums of New Delhi to the mountains of Tennessee. The exhibition shows the many ways that CDC researchers and doctors work to eradicate disease and improve health.

Many of the locations that Snyder visited are among the poorest and most desperate places in the world, including Kabera, a slum in Kenya that crowds 2.5 million people into a shantytown of massive proportions, with no running water, no sanitation, and enormous risk of infectious disease.

Somehow Snyder's images find hope in such situations -- in the presence of the epidemiologists whose work he studies, but also in the faces of the resilient residents who find ways to cope with the intolerable.

In one frame, we see a crowd of boys playing in an alley between crowded rows of flimsy wooden structures, absorbed in a game the photographer can't see.

“These kids will make toys out of anything," said Snyder, 40, a compact, powerfully built man with close-cropped sandy-red hair and the gift of gab. "Fifteen kids can play all day with a ball they made out of trash bags and duct tape. That slum is a horrible, horrible place, but the kids in these places, they run up to you, they smile. They’re happy. I’m always struck by that."

Snyder, a Baltimore native, saw doctors delivering instant blood-test devices to health workers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, immediately after the devastating earthquake. He visited a polio vaccination clinic in New Delhi, a clean-water project in Mumbai, and a park in McMinnville, Tenn.

In the last setting, he captured images from a playground that a community partner constructed to help give the Tennessee children an active outlet for their energies, and to combat the problem of childhood obesity. (Typically, the U.S. children that Snyder documented were threatened not by malaria or polio but by hamburgers and fries.)

The exhibit and Snyder’s work are sponsored by the CDC Foundation, a private nonprofit that helps develop community partnerships for the CDC and provide funding for some projects. The 75 photos in the exhibit are on display at the unique Global Health Odyssey Museum, a 19,000-square-foot museum dedicated to telling the story of the CDC's role in public health.

Photo exhibit

"Assignment: CDC, Photographs by David Snyder." Through Jan. 14. CDC's Global Health Odyssey Museum, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road N.E., Atlanta. Admission and parking are free. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, except 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays. A vehicle search is required. Information: 404-639-0830, www.cdc.gov/museum/ .

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