Seed Grants

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GHI Seed Grants support UW-Madison efforts to launch new global research projects and make them competitive for sustained external funding. Seed grants allow researchers to reach across disciplines for collaborators and make many projects possible.

2017 Seed Grant Recipients

CARDIOVASCULAR RISK PREDICTION TOOLS FOR LATIN AMERICA

Principal Investigator: Leonelo Bautista, associate professor, Department of Population Health Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH)

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of global mortality, accounting for 31 percent of all deaths. In Latin America (LA), CVD account for 31 percent of all deaths and 10 percent of all DALYs. Management of CVD risk factors in individuals at high risk of disease is one of the main strategies for individual and population prevention. In most countries the Framingham equation (FrEq) is used for this purpose. However, the FrEq was developed using data from a cohort of mostly white middle class individuals from the U.S. and overestimates the risk when used in populations with a lower baseline risk of CVD, like the population in LA. In consequence, a high proportion of low-risk individuals is likely classified and managed as high-risk, leading to unnecessary interventions with potential adverse effects and lower cost-effectiveness of primary prevention programs. Unfortunately, the risk prediction has not been recalibrated and validated against incidence data in sub-regions and countries of LA. We will expand existing data from the Latin American Studies of Obesity to 14 countries and 300,000 individuals, estimate country-specific prevalence and incidence of CVD, recalibrate the FrEq, and validate it against external data on the incidence of CVD.

Key personnel: Jaime Miranda, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia; Abraham Flaxi, University of Washington-Seattle

ANALYZING THE DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE IMPACTS OF DODD-FRANK MINING LEGISLATION IN EASTERN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Principal Investigator: Jeremy Folz, professor, Department of Ag and Applied Economics, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS)

In 2010, the U.S. banned purchases of conflict minerals from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Advocates claimed that conflict over minerals fueled the decades-long conflict in DRC and contributed to the overwhelming amount of reported sexual violence. This research will test whether domestic and sexual violence levels have changed as a result of closing conflict mineral mines. The study will use the DRC’s Demographic Health Survey data from 2008 and 2014, which spans before and after the policy, and a difference in econometric methodology to estimate the effects of conflict minerals policies on partner and non-partner sexual violence. Based on previous work by the PI (Parker, Foltz and Elsea, 2017) on the effects of these policies on child health, we theorize that the policy caused greater harm to women in the post-implementation period. The seed grant will finance some initial research with aggregate data, which will help us succeed with grant competitions to collect our own data with women in the DRC.

Key personnel: Dominic Parke, CALS

IDENTIFICATION OF NEGLECTED AND NOVEL HUMAN VIRUSES IN SIERRA LEONE

Principal Investigator: Yoshihiro Kawaoka, professor, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine

Neglected and novel viruses represent a major health risk for human populations. However, there is a limited understanding of the prevalence of these viruses particularly in developing countries such as Sierra Leone. A 2014 study by the Lassa Diagnostic Laboratory in Kenema, Sierra Leone, to identify the causative agents associated with febrile cases in humans found that approximately 29 percent of the febrile cases were caused by a neglected virus and in approximately 45 percent of the cases, the cause of the fever could not be established (Schoepp, R.J., et. al. EID vol. 20 pg. 1176-82, 2014). To catalog the viruses circulating in the population of Sierra Leone, we propose a surveillance study to determine the prevalence of neglected human viruses (Aim 1) and identify novel human viruses (Aim 2). These activities will provide valuable information about human viruses circulating in Sierra Leone. This information could be used to improve the diagnostic capability in Sierra Leone, which could lead to advancements in human health, the potential prevention of further outbreaks, and the alleviation of stress on already burdened healthcare systems.

IMPACTS OF THE INTRODUCTION OF LIVESTOCK ON CROP YIELD IN A RURAL AGRICULTURAL RESOURCE DEMONSTRATION CENTER IN LWEZA, UGANDA

Principal Investigators: James Ntambi, professor, Biochemistry, (CALS); John Ferrick, associate director CALS International Programs

Village Health Project (VHP), a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit at UW- Madison, recently assisted in the construction a Community Rural Agricultural Resource Demonstration Center (RARDC) to teach innovative agricultural methods in Lweza, Uganda. This proposal seeks to maximize crop output and promote sustainability through the addition of various livestock, including cows, pigs, ducks and, chickens. Aside from their byproducts to improve nutrition, the livestock will produce manure that will serve as fertilizer for the crops. This addition will enhance the quality and quantity of fertilizer and increasing crop yields; creating a self-sustaining RARDC to better support the people of Lweza.

Key personnel: Paul Kimera, Uganda liaison; Ronald Nsimb, Uganda project coordinator; Kim Isely, VHP director

COMBATTING ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE THROUGH A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

Principal Investigator: Nasia Safdar, vice chair for research, Department of Medicine, SMPH

Antibiotic resistant infections are a global public health crisis. A key driver of antibiotic resistance is antibiotic overuse and misuse. Antibiotic stewardship-the judicious use of antibiotics- is a key strategy to reducing world-wide resistance. India is at the epicenter of one of the most multi-drug-resistant strains of bacteria, one which carries the New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1), an enzyme which has conferred resistance to almost all therapeutic options. Infection caused by these superbugs has an 80 percent mortality rate.

With partners in New Delhi, our infectious disease group at the UW-Madison has created a collaboration to undertake a qualitative study to increase current understanding of antibiotic stewardship practices and implement protocols for stewardship at a major health care system in India. We will use a mixed-methods approach to undertake

  1. semi-structured interviews of key stakeholders regarding antibiotic stewardship in acute care facilities in India,
  2. document review of antibiograms, antibiotic usage, guidelines and protocols, and
  3. create an implementation strategy for antibiotic stewardship activities as ongoing work.

This project will allow opportunities for students to work in India, synergize with undergraduate and graduate research and education, and will serve as a catalyst for collaboration with the South Asian diaspora at UW-Madison

Key personnel: Sharmila Seng, Medicity Hospitalk; Ajay Sethi, SMPH; Dawd Siraj, SMPH

SCHOOL ENRICHMENT AND LIVELIHOODS ACCELERATED THROUGH MILK (SELAM) PROJECT

Principal investigator:  Michel Wattiaux, professor, Department of Dairy Science, CALS; Heidi Busse, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, SoHE

The School Enrichment and Livelihoods Accelerated through Milk (SELAM) project takes a multidisciplinary approach to enhance school and community nutrition environments by building participatory processes at individual, organizational, and community levels in three rural Ethiopian sites. The SELAM Project aims to improve child nutrition and educational attainment by building community capacity and aligning multiple agencies toward the collective goal of creating a sustainable school milk feeding program.

The issue the SELAM project will address is child malnutrition and chronic food insecurity among rural smallholder families. The project’s purpose is to establish a pilot school milk feeding program to address a low consumption of animal source proteins, a primary driver of child malnutrition in Ethiopia. In Year 1, our three strategic objectives are to:

  1. Develop a model for building participatory processes to identify inter- and intra-household, community, and systems barriers to and assets for strengthening nutrition;
  2. Implement a multisector platform for stakeholder engagement toward the collective goal of improving child nutrition through a school milk feeding program; and
  3. Design a multi-level evaluation framework for a school milk feeding program that considers individual/ household, community, and policy/systems-level impacts.

Key personnel: Brian Christen, SoHE; Ann Evensen, SMPH

2016 Seed Grants

FLOOD PREDICTION TO SUPPORT ADVANCED DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND PUBLIC HEALTH RISKS: UNDERSTANDING, DEVELOPMENT, AND APPLICATION

Principal Investigator: Paul Block, assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Flood catastrophes lead all natural hazards in terms of impacts on society. Most floods occur in developing regions and tropical regions where the impact on public health is substantial.  The usage of such scientific forecasts on disaster management has been highlighted, however there are limited predictive factors and forecasting techniques for specific health risks, and equally limited capacity to develop the infrastructures for such a health forecasting system, particularly in developing countries. In this project, we propose to develop a global flood prediction model to support disaster preparedness and managements for potential flood and flood-induced public health risks.  Advanced long-term flood forecasts and early warning outputs from the model will contribute to developing practical pre-disaster actions and policies under current management systems. The model will be coupled with existing flood risk assessment models and health vulnerability indicators, and then provide innovative health risk forecasts for international and local disaster management agencies and health planners.

WATER, WOMEN, AND FISHERIES: ADDRESSING TWO ECOLOGICAL REALITIES IMPACTING HUMAN HEALTH AT LAKE VICTORIA

Principal Investigator: Jessica Corman, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate, Center for Limnology

Lake Victoria water quality and fisheries impact livelihoods and health of local communities. Lake Victoria, surrounded by Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, represents the largest tropical lake by surface area in Africa and supports the largest freshwater lake fishery in the world. Population growth, land cultivation, nutrient pollution, climate variability, resource extraction, intensive fishing and other stressors have dramatically altered water quality and fisheries ecology, affecting 30 million people living around the lake. Satellite imagery and direct observation show harmful algae blooms and water hyacinth invasions, which can negatively impact livelihoods and health.

Ecological, health, and economic effects disproportionately place the burden of compromised water quality on women.

The Seed Grant will be used to investigate the interrelationship between these two ecological realities and empower communities through women-led initiatives and interventions to reduce impacts on fisheries livelihoods and community health. Focus groups and economic surveys within impacted communities will identify management strategies and establish a platform in which to empower women to reduce community health risks.

Analysis of fish tissues for cyanotoxins, heavy metals, and pesticides will provide an assessment of health risks for local and global consumers. Historical data, water quality surveillance, satellite imagery, and experimentation will be utilized to investigate the complex relationship between water hyacinth and cyanobacterial-associated health risks. Expected outcomes include publications, formation of partnerships for community based participatory research, identification of intervention strategies to improve water quality locally, establishment of a database for monitoring data and satellite imagery, and hypothesis testing of potential low-cost predictors of health risks associated with harmful blooms. The seed grant findings, establishment of community trust, and formation of collaborations will provide foundation for subsequent NSF and NIH solicitations.

POLLUTED FISH AND CYCLES OF POVERTY: TRACING THE GLOBAL SCOPE OF MERCURY CONTAMINATION OF FISHERIES

Principal Investigators: Peter McIntyre, Ph.D., assistant professor, Center for Limnology; James Hurley, associate professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; director, UW Aquatic Sciences Center

This project addresses an unrecognized facet of the cycle of poverty: contamination of food fish with neurotoxins. Mercury from global and local sources biomagnifies in fish, and even low dietary levels can impair human cognitive development. The investigators will analyze archived tissues from four continents, yielding an overall assessment of the threat posed to hundreds of millions of poor people.

Pilot data reveals that mercury concentrations in Central Africa vastly exceed recommendations, and levels in most other regions are sufficient to threaten the health of women and children if consumed weekly. To elucidate needs for building awareness and creating regional consumption advisories, investigators will pursue three specific objectives:

  • assess the geography of mercury contamination of subsistence fisheries,
  • test whether simple correlates of contamination levels could be used to design appropriate advisories, and
  • quantify mercury stable isotopes to trace sources of contamination at each site.

Together, these efforts will set the stage for a major initiative to document and publicize the safety of eating wild-caught freshwater fish. Without such awareness, cognitive impairment of people who depend on subsistence fisheries will further reduce their odds of rising out of poverty.

RURAL GUATEMALA DIABETES INITIATIVE

Principal Investigators: James Svenson, MD, MS, associate professor, Emergency Medicine; Kevin Wyne, PA-C, faculty associate, Family Medicine

San Lucas Tolimán is a town of 17,000 people in southern Guatemala.  The population is mostly indigenous highland Maya with an average income of about $3 per day. This population is experiencing rapid growth in rates of chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. There are many barriers to effective treatment of diabetes in this population including access to care and medications. Empowering health promoters to monitor and provide treatment in their communities is an effective way to improve glucose control and long-term outcomes for patients with diabetes in this region.

The investigators will collaborate with a group from Stanford University to develop a computer-based app that can be used by village health promoters to monitor their diabetic patients. They will develop protocols that can be administered by these promoters to enhance the care of their diabetic patients.  The project will be of great benefit in providing ongoing care for diabetic patients for the communities around San Lucas, and may also be used as a model in other resource poor settings.

For more information on past award recipients, view the 2011 Seed Grant Awards and the 2015 Seed Grant Awards.

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