Global Health Institute supports graduate students, visiting scholars and traveling faculty to study human, animal, environmental health

Girls’ health, open spaces, West Nile virus and cardiac care are among the topics University of Wisconsin-Madison investigators will explore with awards announced March 28, 2016, by the Global Health Institute (GHI).

The Institute awarded eight Graduate Student Research Awards, one Faculty-Staff Travel Award and three Visiting Scholar Awards in amounts from $2,500 to $8,000. They go to students, faculty and staff from across campus and visiting scholars, representing units including the Colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Letters & Sciences; the Schools of Education, Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Public Health, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

The projects address human, animal and ecosystem health in Wisconsin and in Africa and Asia. They look at emerging viral diseases, HIV/AIDS, the health of pregnant teen-agers, the lasting health effects of war, the tradeoffs of multitasking with communications devices, how built urban environment affects health and more.

“This year’s small grant awardees represent the breadth of expertise that our campus has to offer,” says GHI Associate Director for Research Tony Goldberg. “Their research will not only help solve pressing global health problems, but it will also increase UW-Madison’s presence around the world.”

For a complete list of award recipients, visit GHI will announce the recipients of its larger Seed Grants in April.

Here’s a closer look at some of this year’s projects:

Expanding medical capacity

A Visiting Scholar Award will allow Mahelet Tadese Ibssa, an Ethiopian physician, to spend three months at UW-Madison for cardiac anesthesia and echocardiology training to improve care for patients at Addis Ababa University. The project is part of an ongoing collaboration between Addis Ababa and UW-Madison to develop Ethiopia’s first cardiac surgery program.

Improving health systems

Michael Roll, a graduate student in the Department of Sociology, examines a paradox: how and why health agencies may succeed and survive when other government agencies remain weak. He’s looking at how the Nigerian drug and food control agency dramatically reduced the amount of counterfeit or substandard drugs that led to hundreds of deaths. The agency dramatically improved drug quality and also mounted an Ebola response that the World Health Organization called “a spectacular success story.”

Making life better for girls

Rachel Silver, a doctoral candidate in Anthropology and Educational Policy Studies, will use a Graduate Student Research Award to examine how pregnant Malawian schoolgirls are stigmatized and how those attitudes shape their social, psychological and physical health. “Examination of the perceived incompatibility between student-hood and motherhood in Malawi can help illuminate the nature of barriers to school re-entry for young women worldwide,” she writes.

Overcoming stigma

Sun Shufang, a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology, will use a Graduate Student Award to study how discrimination, stigma and homophobia contribute to HIV risk and affect the mental health of Chines gay men. “As an influential country in Asia and the world, changes of HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention policy for sexual minorities in China will likely have positive impact for many other Asian countries,” she writes.

Preventing the spread of disease

Johnny Uelman, a graduate student researcher in Environment and Resources/Epidemiology, will use a Graduate Student Research Award to focus on the effects of warming temperatures and droughts on West Nile virus as it affects Wisconsin’s human and animal populations. His goal is to prevent the proliferation of dangerous diseases on the planet.

Connecting environment and health

Austin Williams, a graduate research assistant in Agricultural and Applied Economics, will use a Graduate Student Research Award to understand better the relationship between built environment and health outcomes. He will look at whether health determinants such as obesity shift how individuals value neighborhood amenities, develop new estimates of the value of living close to public parks and gyms, and estimate the value of open space.

Cutting carbon emissions

Corbett Grainger, an assistant professor in Agricultural and Applied Economics, will use a Faculty and Staff Travel Award to look at the impact of energy subsidies. Focusing on Indonesia, and how governments can eliminate them. “Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies must be a priority if greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced,” he writes, but they remain a challenge politically due to support from individuals and industries who benefit the most from them.”

The Global Health Institute connects colleagues and communities to address complex global health problems through a variety of lenses. GHI is committed to equitable and sustainable health for people, animals and ecosystems—across Wisconsin and the world. It is supported by private and public funding.

By Ann Grauvogl/ March 28, 2016