Graduate Student Research Awards

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Graduate Student Research Awards 2016: Call for proposals

The Global Health Institute Graduate Student Research Award program supports UW-Madison graduate students pursuing a Ph.D. in any relevant discipline who are exploring potential topics that will enhance global health activities on the UW-Madison campus and beyond. GHI will award grants in the amount of $5,000 for a duration of one year.

Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. February 13, 2017.

Please be sure to download application title page, fill it in, and then attach to your email. Note: Only attachments to the email will be uploaded to the Box site. Email text will not be visible.

2016 Graduate Student Research Award Recipients

The effects of prenatal exposure to the Korean War on health and labor market outcomes

Taehoon Kim, Ph.D candidate, Department of Economics.

Abstract: Recently researchers recognize that early childhood health is an important determinant of health in later life (Almond and Currie, 2011a). Especially, people have found that the 280 days experience in utero may be critical periods in an individual’s life in the sense that these periods can determine much of the future health and life. The hypothesis that prenatal experience can shape health in later ages is called as “the fetal origins hypothesis.”

This study tests the fetal origins hypothesis using the evidence from the Korean War (1950-53). The Korean War was the traumatic event for most Koreans and war veterans from many countries. It is well known that the Korean War caused many casualties but less is known for survivors’ health in later life. More specifically, this study estimates the effect of prenatal exposure to the Korean War on health and labor market outcomes in later life. This may help understand implicit war damages that we did not recognize.

Strong health institutions in weak states: Investigating successful drug control in Nigeria

Michael Roll, graduate student, Department of Sociology.

Abstract: During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 Nigeria surprised the world. On July 20, a man coming from Liberia collapsed at Lagos International Airport and was taken to a hospital. When he was diagnosed with Ebola three days later, nine health care workers were already infected. The stage seemed to be set for a major disaster: an Ebola outbreak in one of Africa’s most dysfunctional states and in the continent’s biggest and most densely populated city with a population of 21 million people. Contrary to expectations however, on October 21, 2014, the World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free and its fight to contain the disease “a spectacular success story” (WHO 2014).

How can we account for the existence of strong health institutions in otherwise weak states? While we know that institutions are critical for development and for health service provision, we know much less about why strong institutions sometimes emerge in highly unfavorable contexts. This project studies government agencies that provide the public goods and services they are officially mandated to provide in contexts in which most other government agencies are dysfunctional. I call these exceptional organizations “pockets of effectiveness.”

Moving away from biomass burning to decrease infant mortality: Evidence from LPG policies in Thailand

Thanicha Ruangmas, graduate student, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Abstract: About 70 percent of Thailand’s households still rely on biomass, mostly in the form of wood and charcoal, for cooking. Slowly, these fuels are being replaced as households adopt liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) instead. LPG is made up of butane and propane gas, which comes from either a petroleum distillation process or a natural gas separation process.

This research will analyze the effect of both decreasing LPG price deregulate and increasing macro LPG infrastructure (such as the set up LPG distilleries and LPG retail stores) on district-level household fuel use. In the second stage, we will look at how decreased biomass use affects infant mortality. The merits of this research are: 1) This research will utilize individual birth and death cohort data which can become available. 2) It will analyze how the availability of LPG has allowed households to substitute LPG for biomass burning. 3) It will find if there are costs to fossil fuel subsidy removal on infant mortality.”

Mother, daughter, schoolgirl: Student pregnancy and readmission policy in Malawi’s era of education for all

Rachel Silver, Ph.D. candidate anthropology and educational policy studies.

Abstract: In Malawi, teachers and students, parents and policy-makers, chiefs and clerics all hold up the figure of the pregnant schoolgirl as a tragic emblem of moral failure and sexual shame. Until recently, secondary students were forcibly checked for pregnancy; any girl found to be expecting was whisked out of school never to return.  Pregnant schoolgirls are anathema in mainstream international development discourse, too, where  girls’ education represents a panacea. Here, the value of educating a girl is calculated by multiplying any inherent good of education by a range of public health, social and economic indicators said to improve by keeping her in school and delaying her reproduction.

This project considers how fears about pregnant schoolgirls may act to keep girls out of school, thus complicating traditional analysis about the relationship between fertility, sexuality and schooling, and about factors that shape the wellbeing of pregnant adolescents in Malawi. With an analytic focus on a policy that seeks to increase educational access, the project promotes equitable health for people worldwide.

HIV risk behavior, physical and mental health, and marriage among Chinese men who have sex with men: An examination based on the minority stress model

Shufang Sun, Ph.D. candidate in counseling psychology.

Abstract: In the past decade, the HIV rate among Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM) has risen drastically, with an estimated incidence rate between 8 and 9.1 percent, accounting for a third of new HIV infections in China (Li et al., 2011; National Health & Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China, 2015; Yu et al., 2010). In urban areas like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, & Guangzhou, MSM accounted for more than 70% of new HIV cases (Juan, 2015). The societal level of stigma associated with HIV and same-sez relationships/behaviors, as well as lack of sex education, HIV testing and HIV awareness, all contribute to the increasingly high prevalence of HIV infections among Chinese MSM (Huang et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2006).

This study (a) explores the relevance of the minority stress theory to Chinese MSM, especially roles of minority stress factors such as discrimination, stigma, and homophobia in Chinese MSM’s HIV risk behaviors and mental health outcomes, (b) understandx how sociocultural factors such as the pressure of forming a heterosexual marriage and cultural standard of filial piety impact Chinese MSM’s decision-making about marriage, and (c) Investigates sociocultural predictors of marital satisfaction, sexual behavior, and conflict for Chinese MSM involved in heterosexual marriages and, potentially, extramarital relationships.

Climate change effects on infectious diseases in environmental, wildlife and human health: An evaluation of West Nile virus in Wisconsin

Jonny Uelmen, graduate student researcher in Environment and Resources/Epidemiology, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Abstract: The state of global health is alarming and despite strong efforts to implement reductions in carbon emissions, our planet is still warming.  In addition to increasing temperatures, anthropogenic forces are creating a cascade of devastating forces, ranging from increasing episodes of extreme events of flooding and droughts to new and emerging infectious diseases. Climate change has profound effects on public health and the proliferation of both vector-borne and water-borne infectious diseases.  Previous environmental health models largely incorporate one pathogen and one vector.  However, implementing the most robust and practical assessments of environmental health and climate change provide challenges integrating complex designs.  This project will incorporate a multidisciplinary approach utilizing Epidemiological, Entomological, and Geographic Information System knowledge to assess and predict the effects of climate change on environmental health evaluating West Nile Virus through a One Health approach.

Using a residential sorting model to better understand the relationship between urban green space and health

Austin Williams, graduate research assistant, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Abstract: This project aims to better understand the relationship between the built environment and health outcomes, an area of research that has received a great deal of attention. It will determine if health characteristics, such as obesity, shift how individuals value neighborhood amenities, while also developing new estimates of the value of proximity to amenities such as public parks and gym facilities. A wealth of literature has shown an association between neighborhood amenities, such as parks or open space, and health. This study attempts to resolve one of the biggest empirical issues prevalent in this literature: people sort themselves into neighborhoods based on the characteristics of those neighborhoods and their personal preferences. Public health policy initiatives aimed at obesity prevention or reduction through the expansion of recreation amenities may not be effective if sorting is the main driver of the amenity-health association. This project provides a more comprehensive understanding of how urban environmental interactions impact health, which becomes increasingly important as cities grow and become more densely populated.

Self control in interruption task-switch behavior: the trade-off between motivation and temptation

Ranran Zhu, Ph.D. candidate, School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Abstract: Multitasking goes globally with the growth of information and communication technologies, as a study conducted in Kuwait, Russia and the USA shows (Kononova, Zasorina, Diveeva, Kokoeva, & Chelokyan, 2014). A few real-word or field investigations also have demonstrated that task-switching is a dominating pattern for different populations around the world. To name a few, young adults seated in cubicle switch tasks 27 times an hour, or every 2 minutes (Marci, 2012, in Boston), medical students switch 12 times an hour, or every 5 minutes (Judd & Kennedy, 2011, in Australia), and middle school, high school and college students averaged less than 6 minutes (Rosen et al., 2013, in Southern California). Working and studying time seems to be segregated by the “continuous partial attention” problem (Rose, 2010), and this echoes the evidence that multitasking impairs information processing (Gilbert, Tafarodi, & Malone, 1993; Lang, 1995; Lang, 2000), leads to unregulated media usage that caused mental problems such as depression, isolation, and low-esteem, clinical problems such as losing sleep, and even worse harmful life consequence such as driving accidents, divorce or financial disruptions (Larose, Lin & Eastin, 2003; Song, LaRose, Eastin & Lin, 2004; Oulasvirta et al., 2012).

By making an appraisal of the trade-off effect between psychological dispositions and technology affordances, this study will contribute to a better understanding of the mechanism underlying people’s task-switching behavior and bring up insights on media coping strategies for different populations globally in this media saturated world.


Feature article: Graduate Students Take on Global Health Challenges

For more information on past award recipients, view the Previously Funded Graduate Student Research Project Abstracts and the 2015 Graduate Research Award Recipients.

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