Effects of Racial Disparities on Mental Health in Low-Resource Populations
Principal Investigator: Hannah Olson-Williams, doctoral candidate, epidemiology, SMPH
Similarities between the Sotho ethnic group in South Africa and the Basotho population of Lesotho provide a natural experiment to study the direct impact of racial disparities on mental health. In addition to cultural, linguistic, and ethnic similarities in Basotho and South African Sotho, wealth inequality is a serious problem in both South Africa and Lesotho. Whereas inequality in Lesotho occurs within a single cultural group, inequality in South Africa is stratified across many different racial and ethnic groups.
We will study mental health in Basotho and South African Sotho adults in two urban centers. Our cases are South African Sotho living in Bloemfontein, South Africa who experience racial inequality in a post-apartheid country. Our controls are Basotho living in Maseru, Lesotho who do not experience racial inequality in a racially homogeneous country.
Our goal is to understand whether racial disparities could manifest as different mental health outcomes in countries with extreme wealth inequality. We aim to provide a precise understanding of the specific effects of racial inequality on mental health outcomes. Additionally, since mental health is currently understudied and under treated in Lesotho and South Africa, this research may help justify future improvements in mental health care accessibility for Basotho and South African Sotho.
HEALTH OUTCOMES OF DIARRHEAL DISEASE IN WATER-LIMITED CONDITIONS: CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA’S DROUGHT AS A CASE STUDY
Principal Investigator: Nicholas Spoerk, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health
Beginning in 2015, Cape Town, South Africa experienced several consecutive rainy seasons with precipitation insufficient to refill the reservoirs that supply the city with water. In 2017, declining water supplies prompted city officials to impose water usage restrictions on all residents. Only in the last year have reservoir levels begun to stabilize, and the restrictions today are only eased, not fully rescinded. At the same time, prior literature has pointed to recent drought as a risk factor for increased infectious disease transmission, especially in populations with concurrent social disadvantages. However, no available research to date has attempted to investigate either the changes in infectious disease health outcomes in relation to Cape Town’s recent water crisis, nor the way modifiable social factors influence these outcomes.
We propose a multifaceted approach to study these interactions. One component will consist of a retrospective healthcare records review to quantify the epidemiology and course of these diseases in relation to the drought. Simultaneously, we will survey the local population regarding components of their social environment and their adaptations to water stress. Taken together, we hope these findings will allow us to better describe the relationship between water stress and health outcomes.
Key personnel: Laurel Legenza, Sonderegger Research Center, School of Pharmacy; Renier Coetzee, University of Western Cape, South Africa
MAHERY Vaccine Campaign
Laurel Myers, DVM/MPH candidate, School of Medicine and Public Health and School of Veterinary Medicine
In Madagascar, many households rely on bushmeat as their primary means of accessing animal source foods. Previous research indicates that decreased bushmeat consumption leads to increased incidence of anemia. However, reliance on bushmeat both increases the potential for zoonotic disease transmission and threatens the nation’s delicate ecosystems. Upon examination of regional taboos and taste preferences, chicken was identified as a possible alternative meat source. Yet Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), an avian respiratory disease with high morbidity and mortality rates, is endemic to the island, making it difficult to rear poultry. In response, the Madagascar Health and Environmental Research (MAHERY) program is conducting a vaccine campaign to decrease the incidence of NDV and increase poultry production. It is our hope that increased access to a reliable protein source will both decrease bushmeat consumption by Malagasy citizens and decrease nutritional deficiencies. Harnessing an existing model that projects the impacts of the vaccine on chicken survivorship, we will first conduct a systematic review of existing literature from various countries that examine the way NDV has affected demographics, survivorship, and consumption of chickens and eggs. We will then use this information to improve the existing impact model and to better inform future intervention options.