GHI Grants advance health for all

Across campus and around the world: GHI grants cross disciplines to make a difference

157 grants. Nearly $2 million dollars. Dozens of scholarly articles and presentations. Outside funding. And, most importantly, better health and well-being for people, animals and the environment in Wisconsin and across the world.

These are the results of the grants and awards offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute.

The first travel grants were awarded in 2007 from GHI’s precursor, the Center for Global Health. Since then, the grants and awards program has grown to include Seed Grants, Clinical Research Awards, Visiting Scholar Awards, Faculty and Staff Travel Awards, Graduate Student Research Awards and Henry Anderson III Graduate Student Award in Environmental and Occupational Public Health. These awards have funded projects across the world and the spectrum of global health activities.

When GHI celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021, it looked back at 10 successful grants that represent the complexity of global health and the disciplines needed to address the underlying causes of health and disease. Listed from earliest to most recent grants, here you will find the grant recipients describing the outcomes of their grants in their own words.

a group of Kenyan women
(Photo courtesy of Araceli Alonso.)

1. Reaching out to the ‘Moonlight Stars:’ HIV Prevention Among Sex Workers in Kampala

Araceli Alonso, Gender and Women’s Studies

My 2009 GHI Travel Grant was awarded to do preliminary reproductive health research with sex workers in Kampala. After successfully fulfilling my work in Uganda and reaching out to 1,200 sex workers, I decided to maximize the potential of this grant by traveling to neighboring Kenya and conduct participant observations on women’s health in three very remote and isolated villages of the Southeast border with Tanzania.

There, at the border of Kenya and Tanzania is where my initial GHI Travel Grant ignited a women’s health ripple effect that went further than anyone could have anticipated. Since 2009 to 2021: more than 120,000 people outreached with Health Theater performances, 78 women’s health promoters trained, 150 rainwater tanks installed, 7 mobile clinics on motorbike delivered, 1 large Community Health Center for women and girls built, 1 vocational school opened, and hundreds of moringa trees planted. In 2013 this health initiative that we called “Health by Motorbike” and that started with the 2009 GHI Travel Grant, got the United Nations Award for Public Service for category #3 Gender and Sustainable Development.  Eighteen villages have been involved in this “well-being movement”, with 1000 women leaders leading their way towards community sustainable health, creating a “kingdom of women” or what the women call “A Queendom” ruling for the well-being of all and for future generations.

student examines a man's eye
(Photo courtesy of James Svenson.)

3. Rural Guatemala diabetes initiative

James Svenson, Emergency Medicine; Kevin Wyne, Family Medicine

San Lucas Tolimán (San Lucas) is a town of 17,000 people in southern Guatemala. The population is mostly Indigenous highland Maya with an average income of less than $1,000 per year, or about $3 per day. This population has faced, and continues to face, significant disparities and discrimination within Guatemalan society.

Students and faculty from UW-Madison have participated as volunteers at San Lucas for almost twenty years, providing care in local outreach clinics. In addition to many acute problems, we observed that these clinics were being used more frequently in the care of chronic diseases, such as diabetes.  Traditionally, the care of people with diabetes had been fragmented and resources for treatment were scarce.  Community health workers (CHWs) and mobile health technology have increasingly been applied to patient care in these settings, although mostly in supportive rather than primary roles in diabetes management.

Our GHI seed grant was targeted to improve diabetes care in this community through the development of a CHW-led diabetes program and a smartphone application to provide CHWs with clinical decision support. The development and implementation of the app led to improvements in diabetes control in this population. This process has also led to strengthened ties between UW and the community, and expanded our role from episodic clinics to a more sustainable, continuous presence in the medical care in San Lucas. We are currently developing a similar app to support the treatment of hypertension in community members.  The task-sharing model, developed through GHI funding, uses non-physician health care workers assisted by mHealth applications. It holds promise for improving the care of diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases in this community and other under-resourced settings.

two cows in a pen
(Photo courtesy of James Ntambi.)

4. Impacts of the Introduction of Livestock on Crop Yield in a Rural Agricultural Resource Demonstration Center in Lweza, Uganda

James Ntambi, Biochemistry; John Ferrick, CALS International Program

Developing our 1-acre farm was for the purpose of improving the health, nutrition and economic status of people living in the Lweza community of Mukono, Uganda. All activities were geared at maximizing crop and animal output. They promoted sustainability through the addition of improvements to the farm that will improve biosecurity, water resources, nutrient and waste management and educational opportunities for people in the Lweza community (and eventually surrounding communities) to improve their farming activities. These additions will enhance the quality and quantity of yields on the farm, which will be used to support the overall development of the people of Lweza.

By introducing the biogas project, we have realized availability of organic fertilizer and the farm crop yields have greatly improved. The poor soils have been greatly boosted by the organic fertilizer from animal waste. Plants grow fast and big when you apply organic fertilizer. The farm lacked a toilet facility. The introduction of ecosan toilets has played a big role in managing human waste. After two to three years the human waste can also be used as organic fertilizer in the matooke garden.

The construction of a water source has greatly enabled us have water all the time at the farm. The water is used for irrigation and to clean up the piggery and cow section, hence improving the hygiene and sanitation at the farm, unlike in the past when water was scarce. We have realized that vegetables grown using the drip irrigation system grow fast and bigger in size compared to the ones grown without using drip irrigation system.

Biosecurity has enabled us to realize reductions in animal infections, especially in pigs and cows. We have been able to conduct three training sessions and community members have started grasping the concepts of good health, nutrition and economic welfare through such trainings. The projects are ongoing and will are designed to be self-sustaining.

picture of flooded village
(Photo by Hugh Roland.)

7. Flood Prediction to Support Advanced Disaster Preparedness and Public Health Risks: Understanding, Development, and Application

Paul Block, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

This grant was instrumental in initiating a new research domain and fostering collaborations that have developed into a substantial portfolio of research. At a very basic level, it provided support for my graduate student to deliberately dive into a field that had only been moderately explored, without repercussions in the event it did not materialize, thereby leaning toward high risk, high reward.  Further, it allowed us to combine a number of disciplines (climate, engineering, health) to address a challenge that requires a multi-disciplinary lens.

Perhaps most importantly, our outcomes from this funding laid a strong foundation for developing proposals to attract extramural funds and build collaborations with UW-Madison faculty and off-campus faculty across many fields to further this research theme.  This grant truly acted as an ignition to pursue approaches for advancing disaster preparedness through anticipatory action.

people on street
(Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

8. Gender Analysis and Global Learning for Safe and Healthy Streets: Implementing a Complete Streets Policy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Carolyn McAndrews, Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, and Robert J. Schneider, UW-Milwaukee

Streets are a major form of public space in cities and towns. They serve as places for travel as well as social connections. Complete Streets is a practice-oriented policy and design framework that decenters automobiles and reprioritizes pedestrian, bicycle, and transit travel modes. Research offers ample insights into how people of different genders experience transportation systems in equitable ways, but gender equity is still not part of mainstream transportation practice. We propose that Complete Streets could serve as an implementation system to advance gender equity.

GHI supported (the project) with a Seed Grant in 2019. Since its inception in 2019, we have formed a broad team of partners across five universities, four communities and several transportation advocacy groups. Working with more than a dozen students, we identified the concepts, data, and methods needed to support a gender-aware Complete Streets movement. We have also demonstrated the use of these concepts and practices through pilot analyses and workshops with Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and other communities. We are currently forming a community of practice and hosting the workshop series, “Re-imagining Complete Streets for Everyone: Gender, Sustainable Development Goals, and the Arts,” (Co-PIs Carey McAndrews and Lori DiPrete Brown) with partners 4W (Women & Well-being in Wisconsin & the World) Initiative and the Office of Sustainability at the UW–Madison.

10. The BREAK (Building Respite Evidence and Knowledge) Exchange

Kim E. Whitmore, Nursing

I was fortunate to receive a GHI Seed Grant to help support an innovative initiative called the Building Respite Evidence and Knowledge (BREAK) Exchange. The purpose of the Exchange is to build a global network of researchers, respite providers, agencies and other individuals to promote collaborations and build the evidence base of respite care. The funding we received was instrumental in helping us build the necessary infrastructure to support the work of the BREAK Exchange moving forward.

We conducted a stakeholder analysis and developed a marketing plan that allowed us to recruit more than 190 members from 15 countries to join the BREAK Exchange. We created a web-based knowledge exchange portal and created opportunities for members to connect through social media, a monthly e-newsletter, quarterly webinars, a monthly virtual networking meeting, and an online searchable member database. With support from the seed grant, we conducted a comprehensive review of the literature and developed an annotated bibliography of current respite care research globally that builds off previous work done by the ARCH National Respite Network. We also conducted a global assessment of respite care to better understand the current state of respite around the world, which included questions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on respite services. We have presented about the BREAK Exchange to numerous local, regional, national, and international audiences through webinars and conference presentations.

The partnerships formed by the BREAK Exchange have created many opportunities for collaboration, including:

We plan to further expand the BREAK Exchange in order to help promote research-practice collaborations and increase the evidence of respite care. We established a formal steering committee that is working on developing a strategic plan to help guide the future of the BREAK Exchange. Based on the goals established by the steering committee, we will work with program partners to identify appropriate funding opportunities.

a woman and children near a smoking barrel
(Photo courtesy of Claire Wendland.)

2. Participatory Action Research and Planning to Improve Young Women’s Reproductive Health: A Lever for Change in Reaching the MDGs

Nancy Kendall, Educational Policy Studies; Claire Wendland, Anthropology; Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, UW-Milwaukee

A 2012 seed grant launched us into a shared field-research project on ways to understand young people’s vulnerability and to improve young women’s reproductive health in Malawi.

(Photo by Sarah Maughan UW-Madison)

The grant brought together a new collaborative of three researchers, from different institutions and different disciplinary orientations, for participatory field research in rural Malawi in 2013 and 2014. Before leaving Malawi, we shared preliminary research results with senior educators and health professionals in each community where we worked.

In the years since, this team has continued to work together. All have returned to Malawi, using other research funding. We have continued our multidisciplinary discussions about women’s reproductive health and well-being in Malawi; as a result of these discussions, we have published two articles together in Global Public Health and have more in the pipeline.

Each team member has also drawn independently on our shared fieldwork, working with collaborators within and beyond Malawi. For example:

  • Our research indicated that disabled students had great difficulty accessing education, practical training, or other resources that might support their well-being. Mkandawire-Valhmu initiated an exchange project with physical therapy faculty, and successfully advocated for increased training of physical therapists at the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine. Kendall has launched an SOE Grand Challenges-funded project examining the experiences of youth with special needs in public schools.
  • The team noted that gender-based violence played a significant role in women’s vulnerability, an issue that Mkandawire-Valhmu continues to research. She also drew on this shared work in her 2018 book, “Cultural Safety, Healthcare and Vulnerable Populations.” Kendall is currently involved in research on youth lives and secondary schooling in Colombia, India and Malawi that examines youth experiences of gender-based violence in and out of school, pre- and post-COVID.
  • The project occurred at a time when the Millennium Development Goals were generating focused attention to safe-motherhood interventions in rural Malawi. Wendland got new insight into how stories about maternal death and warnings about danger traveled through communities, producing unanticipated effects among young women. She has discussed these insights at talks in Malawi, in Norway, and in the U.S.. Some appear in her forthcoming book, “Partial Stories.”
  • Conversations during our shared research, and observations that we made, have rippled out in Kendall’s thinking about what support for AIDS-affected youth and families can achieve; about the role of male outmigration in constituting young people’s ideas about futures; and about the importance of understanding shifts in both land use and land ownership in relation to youth’s reproductive vulnerabilities. She has published and presented work on decolonial approaches to youth well-being in Malawi that draws on these insights; has conducted research on rural youth’s experiences of climate and environmental change; and is involved in a UW-Madison Baldwin Ideas Award that aims to improve the food security, social integration, and general well-being of grandmother- and child-headed households affected by AIDS.
  • A graduate research assistant, Rachel Silver, used our findings as a springboard when working out her own award-winning dissertation project on how moral and political authority play out in young people’s lives. She has since become an assistant professor in York University’s Faculty of Education.

This project did not look like what we thought it would.  But small seed grants let people get together and spend time exploring questions together from diverse perspectives. In the years that follow, they can then blossom in many directions, even unanticipated ones.

a group of physicians in a row
(Photo courtesy of the Department of Surgery.)

5. Building Surgical Training Partnership

 James Munthali and Emmanuel Makasa, University of Zambia; Host–Girma Tefera, Surgery

We used the Visiting Scholars Award to develop a relationship with colleagues from the University of Zambia teaching hospital in Lusaka. They came here and spent time with us. That has led to the development of a global surgery training hub, like a training center. I was able to subsequently work with them, and we are developing a global surgery collaborative involving 10 additional departments of surgery in the U.S. so we can together support capacity building and impact the teaching of residents and research methodology. The grant opened the door for this amazing collaboration that is in the works right now. That will lead to an opportunity for shared knowledge.

children test for mosquito larvae in a puddle of water
(Photo courtesy of Walking Palms.)

6. Mosquitos Y Yo: Student scientists in Ecuador

Lyric Bartholomay, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine

The GHI Seed Grants program supports the Mosquitos Y Yo collaborative project between the UW-Madison, Iowa State University and Walking Palms Global Health—a non-governmental organization that operates out of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. Our entities have shared interest in fostering wonderment and curiosity in kids for science, with mosquitoes and public health as the gateway.  Our U.S. team has a rich curriculum for Mosquitoes and Me programming, to include after school and summer camp delivery modalities. The curriculum is designed to get kids thinking, talking and sparking new ideas from their many knowledge bases (cultural, familial, academic).  We have designed activities and accompanying science and naturalist notebooks to encourage authentic science practice (e.g., recording data) and deep noticing.

Our Ecuador-based team took those materials, adapted activities to the particular mosquitoes of public health concern in Ecuador and translated this to Mosquitos Y Yo activities. Our goal was to get our U.S.-based team to Ecuador to deliver Mosquitos Y Yo camp during March, 2020, but the pandemic put a stop to our plans.

Our Ecuador-based team quickly pivoted to find creative ways to get Mosquitos Y Yo activities to kids and families who were housebound during long periods of shutdown. Materials went out to families along with food and essentials deliveries.   Educators checked in with kids on their progress through Mosquitos Y Yo activities and celebrated successes by image and video exchanges over WhatsApp.

The GHI seed grant we received, and our passionate and persistent partners at Walking Palms, made it possible to develop and deliver Mosquitos Y Yo, and provide science and health learning opportunities. No doubt every parent who was likewise suddenly stuck at home and scrambling for school materials and activities to keep the kids busy, can appreciate what a gift this was!

two cranes
(Photo courtesy of Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association)

9. Effective Rehabilitation of a Distressed Species: Grey Crowned Cranes in Rwanda

Barry Hartup, Department of Surgical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine

Since 2015, the International Crane Foundation/School of Veterinary Medicine partnership has collaborated with the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA) to strengthen professional veterinary training and support scientific assessments of endangered grey crown crane rehabilitation and conservation. I used GHI travel funding to aid the final phase of our collaboration: support assessments of 50 rescued, non-releasable cranes for transfer to “Umusambi Village”, a unique sanctuary designed for public outreach on the many benefits of wildlife conservation and native ecosystems; improve the welfare of cranes requiring surgical procedures for better health; and provide intensive training in crane medicine, anesthesia and surgery to early career Rwandan veterinarians.

This opportunity helped me to complete our direct 5-year collaboration and widen the experience and capabilities of RWCA staff to manage crane conservation in Rwanda through application of contemporary avian medicine principles.