Global Health Tuesday: Graduate scholars report

Two of the GHI Graduate Student Research Awards recipients report back on their work to further global health across the world.

Camilla Reuterswaerd , a Ph.D., candidate in the Department of Political Science, looks at what happened to reproductive rights in Mexico after abortion was legalized in 2007. Jiang, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, studied whether strong beliefs can impact health outcomes.

Reuterswaerd—”Competing For Votes and Souls? Electoral Competition, Political Parties and the Catholic Church in Mexico’s Subnational Abortion Policy Reforms”

Reuterswaerd looks at the causes behind subnational variations in Mexico’s abortion policy and the rapid diffusion of amendments aiming to protect life from the moment of conception in the aftermath of the legalization of abortion in 2007.

Based on a preliminary analysis of qualitative data gathered during a year of fieldwork in four Mexican states, Reuterswaerd’s research suggests that electoral competition between Mexico’s two major parties resulted in the rapid spread of policies seeking to pre-empt future abortion liberalizations. Parties pursued such reforms to gain support from the Catholic Church, which legislators perceive as key to electoral success, she says. These findings provide new ways in which to understand the subnational politics of gender policy in Latin America and the variables that drive policy variation and diffusion.

Reuterswaerd is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science. Born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, she holds a BA in Government and Development Studies from Uppsala University and an MA in Political Science from UW-Madison.

Reuterswaerd’s work centers on gender and politics in Latin America, but she also holds broader interests in gender and politics, including the gendered and gendering dynamics of political institutions and different forms of violence against women. During the 2015-2016 academic year, she conducted field research for her dissertation project that examines gender policy variation in subnational Mexico. Her work has appeared in Development and Change.

Jiang—”Individual differences in health conceptualization: It’s impact on health behaviors and outcomes”

The movement from a disease-prevention model to a health promotion model of health marked an important transition in health-related fields over the past decades, Jiang says. Relatively little empirical research has examined whether individuals in the population think about health differently at a conceptual level. Do individual differences in their conceptualization of health translate into different behavior?

Jiang’s research surveyed online participants for their views and conceptualizations of health. By controlling for other pertinent factors, he examined whether certain views of health may lead to stronger engagement in health-promoting behaviors and better health outcomes. For example, do people who view health as the absence of illness and those who seek to promote overall wel-lbeing and wellness differ in how much they exercise and in their overall subjective well-being?

Understanding how concepts and beliefs translate into behaviors potentially paves an important pathway for both public policy and health education, and may help the design of future health interventions, Jiang says.

Jiang was born in Palo Alto, California, but spent the majority of his life in China. He received his BS in Psychology from UW-Madison, then to Northwestern University where he earned his MS. He followed his advisor, Karl Rosengren, back to Madison, where he is pursuing his Ph.D.
Jiang’s research interests are primarily in understanding conceptual development and how children and adults come to understand and navigate the world that surrounds them. While his current research examines people’s concepts of health, he also is interested in  how cross-cultural beliefs and views might influence how people think and behave.
Next Global Health Tuesday: 4:30 p.m. March 28, Talking Health Out Loud with Susan Gold.