Past Graduate Student Research Award Recipients

2022 Awards

Deforestation-zoonoses nexus on the edges of Indonesian plantations 

Aida Arosoaie, doctoral student, Anthropology, College of Letters & Science (L&S)

My research explores the socio-political and economic contingencies of zoonosis by investigating shifting multispecies relationalities in the context of deforestation and palm oil plantations in Indonesia. Relying on ethnographic methodology, my research investigates the process of relocation of formerly forest-dwelling communities in the context of deforestation and the expansion of industrial monocrop plantations. I seek to understand how land use change reconfigures inter-species relations in ways that enable the transmission of zoonotic pathogens. I aim to capture the key local economic, political and environmental factors that place both humans and animals in precarious positions, and that orient or sustain relationships that would encourage the transmission of pathogens. My research aims to contribute to already existing critical approaches to global health by interrogating key paradigms such as emergence and the spillover event which take for granted and pathologize certain inter-species relations. Instead, I explore local biologies and ecologies, as well as socio-political hierarchies, in order to underscore multiple conditions of possibility for the development of zoonotic diseases.  At the heart of my research lies a social justice-informed approach to planetary health which explores the racialized contingencies of capitalist extraction that  contribute to the sustained precarity of local human and nonhuman communities.

An experimental research: Does talking with chatbots reduce loneliness of young adults? 

Jinyoung Choi, M.S., doctoral student, Communication Arts, (L&S); Principal Investigator: Catalina Toma, L&S

Abstract: Loneliness is a prevalent and deleterious health problem among young adults, and it has been exacerbated during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Advances in communication technologies present an exciting opportunity for assisting young adults in combating loneliness. The present project seeks to investigate how Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be leveraged to alleviate young adults’ loneliness. Specifically, we propose an intervention study in which young adults at risk for loneliness (i.e., college students living alone) are instructed to interact with a conversational chatbots for a week, by engaging in either emotional or factual disclosure. Participants’ loneliness will be measured before and after the intervention. We hypothesize that participants who engage in emotional disclosure will experience reductions in loneliness. We propose perceptions of social presence and of social support as the psychological mechanism responsible for this effect. Additionally, we plan to objectively code the participants’ level of disclosure and interaction quality with the chatbot, to see whether and how they relate to reductions in loneliness.

Health and conservation of chimpanzees through viral surveillance in sanctuaries across Africa 

Emily Dunay, VMD, doctoral student, Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM); Principal Investigator: Tony Goldberg, SVM

Pathogen surveillance in great apes has become recognized as an important component of conservation and management due to population declines and infectious disease outbreaks, many of human origin, leading to mortality events in wild great ape populations. Additionally, there is interest in detecting emerging pathogens in great apes due to their close phylogenetic relationship with humans. Despite this, pathogen surveillance data in wild great apes are still limited as sample collection is challenging. Chimpanzee sanctuaries in Africa provide care and housing for thousands of wild-born, orphaned apes. As these chimpanzees typically semi-free-range in forest enclosures and live in normal social groups, they present a valuable context to study wild-born primates experiencing naturalistic diets and activity levels, but where sampling during routine health checks is possible. Despite this, pathogen surveillance studies in sanctuary-housed apes remain limited and have primarily utilized methods targeting specific pathogens of interest. Additionally, little is known about the salivary virome of great apes and its utility for non-invasive assessment of health. Our objective is to use metagenomic next-generation sequencing to characterize the salivary virome of sanctuary chimpanzees to gain insights into their health and for application to the conservation and management of wild great apes. 

Spatial-temporal associations between forest cover change and pediatric health indicators in selected sub-Saharan African countries 

Thomas Leffler, MPH, doctoral student, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies; Principal Investigator: Jonathan Patz, Nelson Institute

The relationship between forest cover loss and infectious disease risk is in need of further investigation, particularly in impacts to vulnerable populations (children). The proposed research investigates the linkages between forest cover change and selected pediatric health outcomes. We propose various regression analyses to investigate forest cover data from NOAA and pediatric health data from USAID’s Demographic and Health Survey to assess these associations. The research will use DHS “cluster sites” along the human-wildlife interface in Senegal, Kenya, and Tanzania as appropriate geographic variables. Anticipated outcomes would demonstrate the positive or negative relationship between forest cover change and certain diagnoses, while allowing for further mechanistic investigation.  

Where do metal contaminants go, and what do they do to plants? 

Principal Investigator: Kate Thompson, M.Sc., doctoral student, Forestry and Wildlife Ecology, CALS

Metal contamination is a growing concern across the globe as urbanization, industrialization, and intensive agriculture increase. These land uses are associated with higher metal pollution on the landscape, which can damage human health, compromise ecological functions, and contaminate the food supply. Hyperspectral imagery presents a unique opportunity to transform environmental monitoring for metal contamination by developing hyperspectral diagnostics to identify metal-induced stress in vegetation. By identifying diagnostic hyperspectral signatures for metal-induced stress in plants, airborne sensors could be used for remote, high-frequency, non-destructive environmental monitoring and local vegetation could be used as passive, low-cost bioindicators of chemical leaks or spills. Operationalizing this technology requires that we can: (i) quantify metal-induced physiological and chemical changes in plants; (ii) differentiate between metal contaminants; (iii) parse the interactive effects of multiple vegetation stressors; (iv) characterize species-specific interactions among diverse plant and metal species. This proposal outlines a ready opportunity to advance many of these frontiers by conducting complementary analyses on soil, root, and leaf samples that were collected as part of a larger hyperspectral eld study in 2021. Analyzing these existing samples is a straightforward opportunity to deliver outsized advances for research in plant physiology, ecotoxicology, and hyperspectral remote sensing. 

2021 Awards

One health and building bridges: An emerging disease at Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Sierra Leone

Principal Investigator: Leah Owens, Ph.D., DVM candidate, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, with Tony Goldberg, Pathobiological Sciences

Since 2003, the chimpanzees of Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone have experienced an outbreak of a lethal “mystery” disease. Tacugama plays a crucial role in the health and well-being of Sierra Leonean people through educational outreach, economic stimulation, public health efforts and advocacy. Through our collaboration with the sanctuary, we obtained samples for a case/control study to identify pathogens associated with the outbreak. In a manuscript in press, we detail the characterization of the disease and the finding of a strongly-associated new species of clostridial bacteria- “Candidatus Sarcina troglodytae.” Now we aim to find the source of the bacterium and, based on comparative and genomic data, we hypothesize that this source is in the environment. Our objective in this project is to identify reservoirs of the bacterium using samples previously collected from Tacugama. GHI funds will be used to test these samples for Sarcina. This funding will also allow the continuation of our partnership with Tacugama. Through this proposed project, we aim not only to gain insights into mechanisms of virulence of this pathogen, but also to continue to build critical bridges in one health, planetary health, governance, and education in Sierra Leone.

SSRI use during pregnancy has adverse impacts on placenta structure and function

Principal Investigator: Rafael Reis Domingues, DVM, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, with Laura Hernandez and Milo Wilback, Animal and Dairy Sciences

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first choice line of antidepressants in the treatment of pregnant women experiencing depression. However, numerous reports indicate the occurrence of adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with exposure to SSRIs during pregnancy: preterm birth, fetal growth restriction and increased fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality. Therefore, it is critical to determine the mechanisms underpinning the negative outcomes due to SSRI exposure during pregnancy. Serotonin plays important roles on embryo/fetal development and regulation of placental vascular perfusion. Therefore, because SSRI increase serotonin concentrations and signaling in the placenta, we speculate that SSRI alters placenta structure leading to placental dysfunction and consequently, fetal growth restriction. Our proposed research is going to evaluate the effects of SSRI on placenta architecture and serotonin signaling pathways. We will test the hypotheses that increased serotonin signaling due to SSRI treatment disrupts placental architecture and function causing intrauterine growth restriction. The completion of this experiment will provide a detailed understanding of the effects of SSRI on placenta structure and its consequences to fetal growth. Understanding the effects of SSRI on placenta structure and fetal growth restriction is the first step in assuring fetal and maternal well-being when women experience depression during gestation.

Linking transportation planning and public health: From human behavior to policy design

Principal Investigator: Yicong Yang, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

The future for health-oriented transportation requires not only built environment and infrastructure change but also behavior change. My research aims to develop new knowledge and policy design that targets the full range of health-related transportation behaviors—including healthy living and active living as well as attitudes, norms and beliefs related to safety, environmental impacts of transportation, land development, equity and emergency response. Drawing from various behavior theories, I will develop a novel theoretical model that bridges the gap between transportation behavior and health behavior then conduct a theory-driven survey to prove the validity of the theoretical model. The survey will utilize experimental design to study individuals’ travel behavior and health behavior orientations within a wide range of choice scenarios. Based on theory and empirical evidence, this study will explore how to redesign policies—such as existing transportation demand management efforts—to target behaviors for health promotion, sustainable transportation, and health cost reduction. This study addresses the vision and mission of GHI by bringing urban planning and global health closer together to develop new approaches to behavioral interventions for more equitable health outcomes.

Microgrid and Micromobility for Healthcare

Principal Investigator: Rebecca Alcock, BS, MS, Ph.D., Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, School of Engineering

Lack of reliable energy access is a major challenge for healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries, where more than 850 million people receive healthcare in a facility without electricity. Electric vehicle-to-microgrid frameworks have been proposed as a multifaceted solution to improve energy reliability and provide health clinics with access to a new mode of transportation. In this project, we propose to develop and eventually implement a mathematical framework that optimizes a health-focused vehicle-to-microgrid system. To begin, we will execute a local Microgrid and Micromobility Pilot Project to establish proof of concept and use these findings to design and optimize the system for a global health setting, secure an international partnership and apply for larger funding opportunities. We hypothesize that such a system has the potential to increase the energy resiliency at health clinics and improve access to transportation, enabling healthcare workers to provide more substantial and higher quality care to their communities.

Optimization of Magnetic Particle Imaging for Brain Activity Acquisition

Principal Investigator: Ilhan Bok, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering

Although most modern imaging modalities give either a structural view of the brain or a broad overview of its activity, they lack targeted, real-time imaging of mental activity. While techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) function well in countries with advanced healthcare systems, they have significant drawbacks. MRI devices in hospitals often must be cooled using specialized systems with liquid helium, and these scanners must be fixed in place. PET requires the use of radioactive tracers, which often have short half-lives and must be produced on-site or shipped quickly. On the other hand, magnetic particle imaging (MPI) is a rapidly advancing, new imaging modality capable of recording real-time, local concentrations of stable magnetic tracer in many different organ systems. The affordability, ease of use, compactness and high resolution of MPI-based neural imaging (functional MPI; fMPI) will enable quick access and usage in developing countries and extend availability to disadvantaged or disproportionately affected communities, while allowing it to complement and enable novel progress in neuroscientific research worldwide.

Midwifery and Maternal Health in Haiti

Principal Investigator: Corinne Hale, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, College of Letters and Science

Maternal health care in Haiti is subject to shifting health policies, limited resources and the whims of the international aid apparatus. This research project aims to investigate two US-based non-profit interventions into midwifery care programs and training in Haiti, including a birthing center and a midwifery training center. After years of cross-cultural involvement, two midwifery organizations will soon be completely Haitian operations. Drawing on existing relationships, I propose to interview and shadow Haitian midwives and nurses either established in their practice or in training. I aim to research (1) how midwives understand and address local medical pluralism and (2) learn how they navigate barriers to providing maternal care. This research will illuminate barriers impacting midwives practice, including varying cultural understandings around pregnancy and childbirth, structural violence, political instability, limited resources, obstructive health policies and growing reliance on biomedical technologies.

2020 Awards

Mosquitos Y Yo: Student Scientists in Ecuador

Principal Investigator: Chelsea Crooks, doctoral candidate, Pathobiological Science, School of Veterinary Medicine

With the increase in the host range of mosquitoes as a result of climate change; the occurrence of weather events increasing the number of suitable mosquito habitats; and the emergence of new mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, there has been an increased focus on these vectors and their public health burden, particularly in the Americas. Lyric Bartholomay and her collaborators have established a science education experience that aims to empower students through participatory service learning to become mosquito experts and agents of public health service. The curriculum – Mosquitoes and Me – was originally developed for historically-excluded youth in Des Moines, Iowa, but has now been adapted into Spanish for use in Ecuador. This graduate student award will cover the travel costs to attend a Mosquitos y Yo camp in Ecuador to serve as a student trainee and teacher. As a researcher studying mosquito-borne disease with a background in Spanish, I can participate in an international program that uses innovative teaching methods to build capacity and advance health within communities through enhanced knowledge about mosquitoes and mosquito-borne disease.

Perceived Racial Discrimination and Mental Health: The role of meaning-making and residential history

Principal Investigator: Pauline Ho, master’s student, Educational Psychology, School of Education

The mental health of college students is a critical public health concern. Numerous studies have shown that experiences with discrimination are negatively associated with mental health and these associations may vary by race/ethnicity. However, previous research examining the buffering effect of racial-ethnic identity has yielded ambiguous findings. This study uses a novel measure to examine whether and how racial-ethnic identity moderates the relationship between perceived discrimination and mental health among college students of color attending a predominantly white institution. Drawing upon a narrative model of identity, this study will reveal the specific features of racial-ethnic identity that affect the impact of perceived discrimination on mental health. Moreover, this study examines whether the moderating effect of racial-ethnic identity varies by residential history before coming to college, which is an understudied contextual factor. This study will advance the mission and vision of GHI by providing a more comprehensive understanding of how racial-ethnic identity and perceived discrimination interact to impact mental health. The results of this study will have potential implications on health interventions to promote healthy well-being.

Culturally Responsive Evaluation—Ghanian Farmers

Principal Investigator: Laura Livingston, doctoral student, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Moringa, often called the “miracle tree,” is a crop that promises remarkable impacts on economic, environment and human health. The moringa tree is rich in vitamin A, protein and calcium; the leaves and seeds offer many nutritional benefits. The tree can be inter-cropped with staple crops and requires less inputs that many other commercial crops in Ghana. MoringaConnect is a Ghanaian- and American-led social enterprise that works with moringa farmers across Ghana to break the cycle of poverty by developing long-lasting networks of markets and farmer support. The organization currently evaluates program success through economic metrics alone, the environment, human and community scale impacts are not measured.

My research asks how you measure the success of a program that impacts individual, community and planetary health? How do people experience being involved in participatory research? A participatory approach to evaluation creates space for the voices of farmers, allowing program managers to better understand the impact of growing moringa and working with MoringaConnect. By leading farmers from three communities across Ghana through evaluative thinking workshops, we will co-create and pilot evaluation tools that will reflect the diverse needs and goals of the farmers participating in the program.

Balancing Vitamin A and D intakes to optimize bone health in swine model

Principal Investigator: Jesse Sheftel, doctoral student, Nutritional Sciences, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Vitamins A and D are vital nutrients responsible for a plethora of biological functions in humans. Imbalance of these vitamins, most notably hypervitaminosis A combined with vitamin D deficiency, has been associated with impacted bone health in human and animal populations; however, these studies are typically observational or use animal diets that do not correspond to realistic intakes of these vitamins. Recently, both vitamin A deficiency and subclinical hypervitaminosis A were reported at an alarming rate in the U.S. population. Hypervitaminosis A, leading to impacted bone turnover has been reported in Zambia and South Africa, attributable to overlapping vitamin A interventions such as food fortification and high-dose supplementation.

In this study, we propose to use a swine model to determine the impact of chronic, subclinical imbalances of vitamins A and D on bone health, determined by innovative clinical computer tomography (CT) and dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) techniques, in addition to molecular and biochemical markers of vitamin and mineral metabolism. Data from this study will inform global public health researchers and clinicians on the effects of chronic nutrient imbalances due to dietary patterns and public health interventions.

Healthy children, healthy chimps: reducing respiratory disease transmission from humans to chimpanzees

Principal Investigator: Taylor Weary, doctoral student, Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine

Reverse zoonotic respiratory diseases threaten wild chimpanzees across Sub-Saharan Africa. In the Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Kibale National Park, Uganda, respiratory disease has caused 59 percent of deaths over the past 30 years, with outbreak mortality rates of up to 10 percent. Our studies have identified the causative agents as “common cold” pediatric human pathogens. We hypothesize that respiratory pathogens circulate in children living near chimpanzee habitats, and that adults in those villages become asymptomatically infected and can carry the pathogens into the forest and infect chimpanzees. Our objectives are to characterize respiratory pathogens in local children, forest workers, and chimpanzees using comprehensive molecular diagnostics and metagenomic DNA sequencing, and to examine the reverse zoonotic transmission risk that varies with pathogen type, season, environment, and individual characteristics of humans and chimpanzees. To date, we have collected respiratory disease symptoms data and 1,048 nasopharyngeal swabs from about 250 human study participants and 492 fecal samples from about 120 chimpanzees. Initial data show that children exhibit high frequencies and severities of symptoms while adults are largely asymptomatic. GHI funding will be used to test the swabs for the “common cold” pathogens. Our data will inform evidence-based strategies to reduce transmission to the approximately 1,500 chimpanzees of Kibale and, by extension, to all wild chimpanzees.

From uncertainty into survival: reproduction in the Sierra Leonean Ebola outbreak

Principal Investigator: Kelsey Wright, doctoral student, Sociology, College of Letters & Science

The 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed more people than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined, and was the first to reach pandemic status by spreading to more than one country (Shultz et al., 2016; WHO, 2016). Empirical research demonstrates that outbreaks like Ebola will become more frequent and increase in the near future due to rapid urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa, climate change, potential conflicts over resources, civil unrest, and redistribution of both human and animal disease hosts through migration (Wilcox, 2019). These conditions pose existential threats—both real and imagined—to the citizens that live through them, the governments that try to respond to them, and the international organizations mobilized to contain them.

My proposed research will use life history interviews to understand the meanings, motivations, and considerations that young adults attach to reproduction under epidemic and quarantine conditions. By considering how human beings act to understand survival in a time of acute uncertainty, I will contribute to related research that examines the symbolic meanings of family formation as a source of survival after population traumas (Carta et al., 2012; Norris et al., 2002; Rodgers et al., 2005). I intend to accomplish this by focusing on young adults aged 20-35 years old who experienced important life course events before, during, and after the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

My research addresses the following questions:

  • Did young adults maintain or adapt their reproductive beliefs and practices when experiencing an acute threat to survival?
  • What importance did young adults give to the concepts of uncertainty and survival when they were simultaneously thinking about starting a family and avoiding infection?

This research agenda seeks to understand whether and how young adults situate themselves, their families and their reproduction within their communities as part of both individual and community survival, and how they think about “survival-with” and “survival-after” one of the deadliest diseases in the world. In doing so, my dissertation contributes to a broader, long-standing question in social science: do people understand family formation as inherent to the survival of themselves, their communities, and their nations?

2019 Awards


Principal Investigator: Hugh Roland, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Department of Surgery, School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH)

This project builds on preliminary research in the Marshall Islands (RMI) in the Central Pacific. Roland will visit outlying islands to investigate local perspectives on social vulnerability and, particularly, health indicators, as these may be drastically effected by climate change and environmental events. Health and environmental vulnerability is especially relevant in heavily resource-dependent and geographically isolated and less developed contexts, like outlying islands in RMI. Typical measures of vulnerability, such as employment or land ownership, may be less relevant compared with indicators such as water source or toilet type. Roland will consider social vulnerability in this highly localized context and examine the relationships between indicators. A context-specific analysis is critical since determinants of social vulnerability, like determinants of health, can differ vastly in different places and circumstances. Most studies of climate-related vulnerability have focused on developed contexts and few have considered local perspectives in identifying relevant indicators. This research aims to address both these gaps. By identifying locally-important aspects of climate-related social vulnerability, as well as specific indicators that may be aggregated into a social vulnerability index, he hopes to create a locally-relevant tool for measuring climate-related social vulnerability.

Key personnel: Katherine Curtis, Department of Community & Environmental Sociology, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences


Principal Investigator: Niu Yanzhuo, Department of Educational Psychology, School of Education

In the recent years, selfie-editing apps (e.g. Facetune, Snapchat lenses) are gaining tremendous popularity among young adults. These apps help people enhance their look in the selfies effortlessly. Several studies, however, have linked selfie-editing behaviors with body dissatisfaction. It is therefore important to investigate the underlying mechanism of this association. This proposed study will focus on how exposure to an enhanced image of self, caused by selfie-editing, would influence one’s evaluation of self. Is the digitally-enhanced selfie more likely to influence individuals’ self-evaluation in a positive way or negative way? What are some individual characteristics that can influence the direction and strength of the effect? By extending the application of social comparison theory, we generated several hypotheses to answer these questions and propose an experimental design to test them.

Key personnel: Brad Brown, Department of Educational Psychology, School of Education


Principal Investigator: Rui Meng, Department of Educational Psychology, School of Education

Improving human health, both physically and mentally, is one of the initiatives of the Global Health Institute. Medical decisions we make have a great influence on our physical and mental health. Our ability to process and understand health-related information is critical for us to make informed medical decisions. Much of health-related information includes data, especially covariation data. Therefore, accurate covariation data interpretation is a basic premise for informed medical decision making and our overall health. However, people often experience considerable difficulty interpreting covariation data, which constrains medical decision making. What factors contribute to the difficulty of covariation data interpretation? The proposed research project will focus on one of the task factors—symmetry of variables—to learn why people have such difficulty and how to improve our covariation data interpretation. The results of the proposed project have potential implications for health policy making and health education.

Key personnel: Martha Alibali, Department of Psychology, College of Letters & Science


Principal Investigator: Jeong Ha Choi, Department of Psychology, College of Letters & Science

Stress and stress-related health illnesses are a major concern worldwide and investigations into the pathways linking stress and health risk are of importance for clinical practice and social policy. Salivary cortisol has been commonly used as a biomarker of stress and related mental or physical diseases, as well as the more recently recognized salivary alpha-amalyse (sAA). However, it is still unclear how the cultural context and values affect the links between stress and health. Although negative emotions are typically viewed as something to avoid in American and European cultures, this view does not hold across all cultures. In East Asian cultures, negative emotions in stressful situations are considered to be less harmful and are more accepted as compared to Western cultures. This research seeks to determine whether beliefs about stress affect stress hormone reactivity, both the salivary cortisol and sAA response, differently among East Asians and Americans. We expect individuals with more balanced and nuanced view of negative emotions (e.g., East Asians) to show a smaller and potentially more adaptive hormonal responsiveness when compared to individuals with a more negative view of negative emotions (e.g., Americans of European family backgrounds). This research will provide a more comprehensive understanding on how cultural beliefs about negative emotion can affect health outcomes.

Key personnel: Christopher Coe, Department of Psychology, College of Letters & Science


Principal Investigator: Julia Reynolds, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Department of Geography, College of Letters & Science

Due to the nation’s dependency on rain-fed maize production for livelihood and food consumption, Malawi is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate variability and long-term change. Recent extreme weather events, such as the 2015 to 2016 flooding emergency, rendered almost seven million people food insecure. Hunger and well-being are closely connected to a farmers’ ability to successfully adapt to climate variability. The proposed project aims to investigate current farmer adaptation strategies in central Malawi for the dual purpose of contributing to broader understandings of successful responses to climate change, and to strengthen existing strategies in Malawi through farmer-to-farmer communication and collaboration. During a six-week field stay in Malawi, Reynolds will use ethnographic methods, including participant observation and semi-structured interviews, to gather qualitative information on climate change experiences and responses at the household and village level. Farmer field events will invite collective discussion and collaboration regarding successful adaptation strategies. Further, as an initial stage of future dissertation research, Reynolds will use a participatory approach by inviting farmers to collaborate on developing dissertation research questions and objectives.


Principal Investigator: Ngonidzashe Mpofu, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology& Special Education, School of Education

There is a lack of research regarding cultural- and needs-informed strategies that rehabilitation service providers can use to close the service utilization gap for Maori that currently exists. This gap reduces the efficacy of services in promoting high quality outcomes for Maori peoples with disability. Given the prevalence of anxiety or depressive mental health issues among Maori, the extent of the problem warrants research concerning Maori peoples’ lack of service utilization. The report generated from this research will inform the rehabilitation service workplace wellbeing, culturally informed assessments that evaluate rehabilitation direct service staff workers and contribute to future planning that addresses Maori mental health needs. The Maori community have an important role in shaping thoughts and attitudes towards services that respond to Maori rehabilitation service needs. Maori conceptualize health and well-being within a broad context that depends on many factors that are centered around cultural identity as a prerequisite to accepting or seeking out rehabilitation health services. This award will allow Mpofu to interview individuals who identify as Maori, living in New Zealand’s North Island, that are experiencing or have experienced mental health issues, and to add to the knowledge base supporting rehabilitation service provision.

2018 Awards

Friendships, Technology and the Transition to College: How College Students’ Well-being and Adjustment to College is Affected by Their Use of Communication Technologies to Maintain Friendships

Chelsea Olson, Ph.D. candidate, School of Education

Mentor: Catalina Toma, Associate Professor of Communication Arts

Abstract: More and more young people across the globe pursue a college education. The transition to college is a challenging developmental milestone, often producing stress. However, this stress can be buffered by social support, with evidence suggesting that freshmen who cultivate both old and new friendships adjust better than those who don’t. Recently, the process of friendship management has been fundamentally altered by the widespread use of communication technologies, especially texting and social network sites. Yet it is unknown how these technologies are used by freshmen to maintain and develop friendships during the college transition and how, in turn, these friendships affect psychological well-being and adjustment to college. Do these technologies enable the cultivation of supportive friendships that improve well-being? As perpetually available, low-effort communication tools, they may encourage individuals to connect with others. Or do they foster unfavorable social comparisons that hurt well-being? On social network sites, users might feel pressured to present positive presentations of their lives, limiting opportunities for real connection. How do shy, socially anxious, or depressed freshmen, who struggle with peer relationships, use these technologies? We develop a series of theoretical arguments to answer these questions and propose a two-wave longitudinal survey to test them.

Unintended Reactance to Health Campaigns and the Presumably Influenced Public

Jinha Kim, Ph.D. candidate, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Mentor: Hernando Rojas, Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Abstract: This study aims to integrate the theory of psychological reactance (boomerang effect) and the third-person effects model from communications field to delineate the psychological process through which the pre-held health beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral intentions of hardened users of alternative tobacco product (e-cigarettes) could become reinforced and even exacerbated. This bases on the integrated model which shows that reactance may not only occurs directly against health campaign messages, but also against the norm perceived by assessing the potential impact health campaigns on others. This study has several significant implications: first, the integrated model accounts for not only the direct influence of messages on individuals, but also the indirect path through which individuals assess impact of messages on others, and reinforce their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. It attempts to refine health campaign effects beyond the simplistic stimulus-organism-response paradigm in media effects, by incorporating mass-mediated messages as one of critical factors that contributes to the key health determinant, perceived norm. Second, through this mechanism, this study describes how strong pre-held health beliefs, attitudes, and hardened behaviors may become further exacerbated. Lastly, the study attempts to examine the integrated model for the first time with various prototypes of health campaign messages.

The Role of New Media and Communication in Youth-Driven Mental Health Promotion Initiatives in Underserved Communities in British Columbia, Canada

Ornella Hills, Ph.D. candidate, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Abstract: Fewer than half of youth utilize needed mental health services in high-income countries and even fewer utilize these services in low-income nations. In Canada, despite mental health disorders being the leading cause of disability, only 31 percent of youth access care. To address this, scholars have called for multi-sector, cross-disciplinary initiatives addressing not only the prevention and treatment of mental health, but also its promotion. In addition, youth engagement in the development of these initiatives has been identified as key to improving sustainability, effectiveness, and cultural responsiveness. However, no existing frameworks exist to guide youth-driven mental health promotion initiatives through public policy.

Additionally, while over 90% of youth utilize new media and communication tools in the US and Canada, the role of these tools in mental health promotion has not yet been elucidated. In a cross-disciplinary collaboration among youth collaborators, policy makers, nursing and communication scholars, this project seeks to address these gaps by investigating the ways in which new media and communication patterns contribute to youth mental health and mental health service use. It will also address the ways in which these tools can support a youth-driven mental health promotion policymaking framework among youth in British Columbia, Canada’s underserved communities.

Satellite Data for Air Pollution Exposure and Public Health

Seohyun Choi, Ph.D. candidate, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Mentor: Tracey Holloway, Professor of Environmental Studies

Abstract: While satellites present many benefits in air quality monitoring, there is yet to be a standard approach of applying satellite data to public health research. An analysis of domestic PM2.5 estimates presented by different public health organizations shows that their estimates are inconsistent. An analysis of search terms on the Web of Science reveals that only 25.8% of studies on air quality link health and satellites, and 16.4% of public health journals publish papers on air, health and satellites. These findings demonstrate the need for further utilization of satellite data in public health research. NASA HAQAST (Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team) has shown that there are benefits in providing stakeholders with easier platform to process satellite data, such as GIS (Geographical Information Systems). One of these benefits includes rapid integration of satellite data in public health research. With funding from Global Health Institute, I propose to extend these lessons learned from NASA HAQAST to GEMS (Geostationary Environmental Monitoring Spectrometer) mission in planning by South Korea.

Protecting Children from Junk Food Online Game: Introducing Stop-And-Take-a-Break Intervention Strategy

Eunji Cho, Ph.D. candidate, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Abstract: Childhood obesity is a major global health concern. The WHO concluded that the intense advertising of energy-dense food is a probable causal factor in childhood obesity worldwide. Advergames are one of the most popular channels through which children get exposed to food brands and products. Since the majority of foods and beverages promoted in advergames contain high levels of sugar, sodium, and/or fat, playing advergames has the potential to impact children’s health. Considering the influential power of advergames such as the tendency for children to eat/favor/choose energy-dense foods, the proposed study suggests a new parental intervention strategy, “stop and take a break” to reduce harmful effects of unhealthy food advertising on children. More specifically, the proposed technique causes children to dislike the unhealthy food brand, which in turn leads to better selections of foods. Furthermore, it can redirect children’s attention to other healthy activities outside. By suggesting parents to utilize this technique, we can avoid a situation where children vulnerably favor and request parents for unhealthy food brands.

Evaluating the feasibility and acceptability of oral rabies vaccination of vampire bats in Mexico

Elsa Cardenas Canales, Ph.D. candidate, School of Veterinary Medicine

Mentor: Jorge Osorio, Professor of Pathobiological Sciences

Abstract: In Mexico, vampire transmitted rabies is a burden to the livestock industry and a significant public health concern. Widely distributed, the common vampire acts as the principal reservoir of rabies virus. Currently, rabies control measures include culling vampires; however, this practice is not effective. We have developed a novel rabies topical vaccine that protected big brown bats against rabies challenge. This technology could be adapted to target other bat species and also be directly applicable toward control of vampire-bat associated rabies in Mexico as an alternative to culling.

To begin, we want to evaluate the uptake and rate of transfer of a topically delivered vaccine mechanism (jelly mixed with a biomarker). We recognize that, for a vaccination campaign to succeed, the engagement of the public is essential. Therefore, we will evaluate public knowledge and perceptions about vampire-transmitted rabies in four Mexican communities where rabies is endemic using a knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) questionnaire. Results from this project will help tailor public outreach efforts and to design effective educational campaigns and control methods for rabies. Our project will be the first to assess the feasibility and practicality of vaccinating free ranging vampire bats to prevent rabies.

Learning from the outsider within: Adolescent pregnancy as constructed, experienced and negotiated by adolescent girls and boys

Selah Agaba, Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy Studies and Anthropology

Abstract: Being pregnant, bearing and raising a child are major life events. For adolescent girls, these events are usually accompanied by structural hardships such as increased risk of mortality, unsafe abortion, expulsion from school, diminished economic potential, and social stigma (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, 2014; World Health Organisation, 2014). However, efforts to decrease adolescent pregnancy, and thus decrease the harsh medical and material burden imposed chiefly on adolescent girls continue to be fashioned without comprehensive understanding of adolescents’ lived experiences and tend to be based on an imagined idea of the ideal adolescent.

This has resulted in policies and practices that: 1) reduce adolescent sexuality to risk- and deficit-driven interventionist models of understanding that are severed from the material life of adolescents as living, feeling, sexual beings; 2) ignore the perspectives and experiences of adolescent boys; 3) construct and perpetuate notions of innocence or culpability in the expressions of sexuality based on race and class; and 5) continues to present and uphold imaginations of adolescent sexuality formed without the input of adolescents. This research will extend and question these understandings by bringing adolescents and adolescent sexuality to the centre and as the beginning point of research and analysis.

Quantifying the Air Quality and Human Health Benefits of Energy Efficiency in the U.S.

David Abel, Ph.D. candidate, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Abstract: The potential for utilities to expand energy efficiency offers an under-utilized opportunity to meet clean air and health targets by reducing emissions of health-damaging pollutants and greenhouse gases. This represents a win-win-win opportunity for states, ratepayers, and utilities by reducing adverse health outcomes at lower cost than technological controls, which increase greenhouse gas emissions. Proposed research fills a need for study addressing the benefits of energy efficiency on air pollution exposure and health impacts. The goals of the work include quantifying the mortality and morbidity impacts of a realistic energy efficiency scenario developed with the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), compiling a scientific publication, mentoring an undergraduate student, and establishing a framework for future work. I am requesting $5,000 from the GHI Graduate Student Research Award to purchase a computer monitor and fund travel to to present results and perform outreach at the 2018 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings and the 2018 American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. Proposed research and travel advances the mission and vision of GHI by progressing scientific understanding of an interdisciplinary, complex public health concern and promoting a healthy and sustainable future.

2017 Awards

Impact of Hospital Antimicrobial Stewardship Policies in Manila, Philippines

Kaitlin Mitchell, Ph.D candidate, Department of Population Health Sciences

Abstract: Antimicrobial resistance has rendered numerous drugs ineffective against infections that were once easily treated. This process is being accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Hospital antimicrobial stewardship programs require coordination between clinical pharmacists, infection control staff, and prescribing physicians to curtail inappropriate use of antibiotics. While these types of policies are important in all healthcare facilities, they are especially critical in countries such as the Philippines where multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs) are highly prevalent.

This project will study the impact of antimicrobial stewardship policies at The Medical City, a large hospital in Manila, Philippines.The Medical City has had an antimicrobial stewardship program in place since 1989, and preliminary qualitative analysis at this site indicated it to be generally well-received by healthcare providers. However,the policy has been amended in recent years to better adhere to guidelines suggested by the Centers forDisease Control. Using mixed-methods, the project will analyze these updated policies in terms of their impact on 1) antibiotic usage, 2) patient outcomes and rates of MDROs, and 3) healthcare providers’ prescribing behaviors and perceptions of policy feasibility. This work will help to evaluate existing hospital regulations and point to areas for potential revision and intervention.

Culture Shapes Appraisal And Cardiovascular Recovery From Anxiety

Jia Yoo, Ph.D candidate, Department of Psychology

Abstract: Anxiety has been shown to predict poor health via behavioral and physiological processes. Particularly, prolonged cardiovascular response to anxiety (i.e. delayed cardiovascular recovery) is one important physiological pathway through which emotions affect health. However, whether cultural context affects links between emotions and health has been largely neglected. Although anxiety is predominantly seen as undesirable in North American cultures, this view does not hold across cultures. In East Asian cultures, negative emotions in stressful situations are considered as more positive and appropriate compared to Western cultures. This research seeks to determine whether appraisals about anxiety affect cardiovascular stress recovery differently among East Asians and Americans. Building on prior studies showing that found anxiety appraisals (e.g., believing that anxiety is more harmful vs. less harmful) predicts physiological responses, cultural differences are hypothesized. The balanced view of anxiety among East Asians is expected to predict more adaptive cardiovascular recovery compared to the predominantly negative view of anxiety among Americans. Identifying cultural influences on health risks of anxiety have significant implications for advancing understanding of local and global health.

Cultural differences in parent-child endorsement of germ and cold weather theories of the common cold

Iseli Hernandez, Ph.D candidate, Department of Psychology

Abstract: It is thought that cold weather beliefs originated with the ancient Greek physicianHippocrates’ bodily humors theory (Harwood, 1971). According to this theory, human emotions and behaviors could be attributed to an excess or lack of bodily fluids, otherwise known as humors. Its central principle lies in the idea that the body is in a state of imbalance. In the case of cold weather and the common cold, when the warm body is exposed to cold winter elements, an imbalance between the internal and external temperatures occurs causing the body to become sick.  If an individual believes that cold weather leads to a cold, this has implications for the health behaviors they engage in, particularly during the cooler months. People may engage in behaviors that minimize exposure or that protect the body against cold weather. For example,they may wear extra layers of clothing, such as a jacket or a hat, and avoid going outside in the winter immediately following a warm shower. Although these behaviors do not appear to be harmful, examining these beliefs is important because these beliefs and behaviors directly compete with germ theory based preventative behaviors (Sigelman, 2012). Broadening our understanding of cold weather theory beliefs can inform the development of teaching tools aimed at maximizing common cold preventative behaviors in line with germ theory. This understanding can help advance health by promoting behaviors that truly prevent sickness, while discouraging those that are erroneous.

2016 Awards

The effects of prenatal exposure to the Korean War on health and labor market outcomes

Taehoon Kim, Ph.D candidate, Department of Economics

Abstract: Recently researchers recognize that early childhood health is an important determinant of health in later life (Almond and Currie, 2011a). Especially, people have found that the 280 days experience in utero may be critical periods in an individual’s life in the sense that these periods can determine much of the future health and life. The hypothesis that prenatal experience can shape health in later ages is called as “the fetal origins hypothesis.”

This study tests the fetal origins hypothesis using the evidence from the Korean War (1950-53). The Korean War was the traumatic event for most Koreans and war veterans from many countries. It is well known that the Korean War caused many casualties but less is known for survivors’ health in later life. More specifically, this study estimates the effect of prenatal exposure to the Korean War on health and labor market outcomes in later life. This may help understand implicit war damages that we did not recognize.

Strong health institutions in weak states: Investigating successful drug control in Nigeria

Michael Roll, graduate student, Department of Sociology

Abstract: During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 Nigeria surprised the world. On July 20, a man coming from Liberia collapsed at Lagos International Airport and was taken to a hospital. When he was diagnosed with Ebola three days later, nine health care workers were already infected. The stage seemed to be set for a major disaster: an Ebola outbreak in one of Africa’s most dysfunctional states and in the continent’s biggest and most densely populated city with a population of 21 million people. Contrary to expectations however, on October 21, 2014, the World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free and its fight to contain the disease “a spectacular success story” (WHO 2014).

How can we account for the existence of strong health institutions in otherwise weak states? While we know that institutions are critical for development and for health service provision, we know much less about why strong institutions sometimes emerge in highly unfavorable contexts. This project studies government agencies that provide the public goods and services they are officially mandated to provide in contexts in which most other government agencies are dysfunctional. I call these exceptional organizations “pockets of effectiveness.”

Moving away from biomass burning to decrease infant mortality: Evidence from LPG policies in Thailand

Thanicha Ruangmas, graduate student, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Abstract: About 70 percent of Thailand’s households still rely on biomass, mostly in the form of wood and charcoal, for cooking. Slowly, these fuels are being replaced as households adopt liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) instead. LPG is made up of butane and propane gas, which comes from either a petroleum distillation process or a natural gas separation process.

This research will analyze the effect of both decreasing LPG price deregulate and increasing macro LPG infrastructure (such as the set up LPG distilleries and LPG retail stores) on district-level household fuel use. In the second stage, we will look at how decreased biomass use affects infant mortality. The merits of this research are: 1) This research will utilize individual birth and death cohort data which can become available. 2) It will analyze how the availability of LPG has allowed households to substitute LPG for biomass burning. 3) It will find if there are costs to fossil fuel subsidy removal on infant mortality.”

Mother, daughter, schoolgirl: Student pregnancy and readmission policy in Malawi’s era of education for all

Rachel Silver, Ph.D. candidate anthropology and educational policy studies.

Abstract: In Malawi, teachers and students, parents and policy-makers, chiefs and clerics all hold up the figure of the pregnant schoolgirl as a tragic emblem of moral failure and sexual shame. Until recently, secondary students were forcibly checked for pregnancy; any girl found to be expecting was whisked out of school never to return.  Pregnant schoolgirls are anathema in mainstream international development discourse, too, where  girls’ education represents a panacea. Here, the value of educating a girl is calculated by multiplying any inherent good of education by a range of public health, social and economic indicators said to improve by keeping her in school and delaying her reproduction.

This project considers how fears about pregnant schoolgirls may act to keep girls out of school, thus complicating traditional analysis about the relationship between fertility, sexuality and schooling, and about factors that shape the wellbeing of pregnant adolescents in Malawi. With an analytic focus on a policy that seeks to increase educational access, the project promotes equitable health for people worldwide.

HIV risk behavior, physical and mental health, and marriage among Chinese men who have sex with men: An examination based on the minority stress model

Shufang Sun, Ph.D. candidate in counseling psychology

Abstract: In the past decade, the HIV rate among Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM) has risen drastically, with an estimated incidence rate between 8 and 9.1 percent, accounting for a third of new HIV infections in China (Li et al., 2011; National Health & Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China, 2015; Yu et al., 2010). In urban areas like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, & Guangzhou, MSM accounted for more than 70% of new HIV cases (Juan, 2015). The societal level of stigma associated with HIV and same-sez relationships/behaviors, as well as lack of sex education, HIV testing and HIV awareness, all contribute to the increasingly high prevalence of HIV infections among Chinese MSM (Huang et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2006).

This study (a) explores the relevance of the minority stress theory to Chinese MSM, especially roles of minority stress factors such as discrimination, stigma, and homophobia in Chinese MSM’s HIV risk behaviors and mental health outcomes, (b) understandx how sociocultural factors such as the pressure of forming a heterosexual marriage and cultural standard of filial piety impact Chinese MSM’s decision-making about marriage, and (c) Investigates sociocultural predictors of marital satisfaction, sexual behavior, and conflict for Chinese MSM involved in heterosexual marriages and, potentially, extramarital relationships.

Climate change effects on infectious diseases in environmental, wildlife and human health: An evaluation of West Nile virus in Wisconsin

Jonny Uelmen, graduate student researcher in Environment and Resources/Epidemiology, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Abstract: The state of global health is alarming and despite strong efforts to implement reductions in carbon emissions, our planet is still warming.  In addition to increasing temperatures, anthropogenic forces are creating a cascade of devastating forces, ranging from increasing episodes of extreme events of flooding and droughts to new and emerging infectious diseases. Climate change has profound effects on public health and the proliferation of both vector-borne and water-borne infectious diseases.  Previous environmental health models largely incorporate one pathogen and one vector.  However, implementing the most robust and practical assessments of environmental health and climate change provide challenges integrating complex designs.  This project will incorporate a multidisciplinary approach utilizing Epidemiological, Entomological, and Geographic Information System knowledge to assess and predict the effects of climate change on environmental health evaluating West Nile Virus through a One Health approach.

Using a residential sorting model to better understand the relationship between urban green space and health

Austin Williams, graduate research assistant, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Abstract: This project aims to better understand the relationship between the built environment and health outcomes, an area of research that has received a great deal of attention. It will determine if health characteristics, such as obesity, shift how individuals value neighborhood amenities, while also developing new estimates of the value of proximity to amenities such as public parks and gym facilities. A wealth of literature has shown an association between neighborhood amenities, such as parks or open space, and health. This study attempts to resolve one of the biggest empirical issues prevalent in this literature: people sort themselves into neighborhoods based on the characteristics of those neighborhoods and their personal preferences. Public health policy initiatives aimed at obesity prevention or reduction through the expansion of recreation amenities may not be effective if sorting is the main driver of the amenity-health association. This project provides a more comprehensive understanding of how urban environmental interactions impact health, which becomes increasingly important as cities grow and become more densely populated.

Self control in interruption task-switch behavior: the trade-off between motivation and temptation

Ranran Zhu, Ph.D. candidate, School of Journalism and Mass Communications

Abstract: Multitasking goes globally with the growth of information and communication technologies, as a study conducted in Kuwait, Russia and the USA shows (Kononova, Zasorina, Diveeva, Kokoeva, & Chelokyan, 2014). A few real-word or field investigations also have demonstrated that task-switching is a dominating pattern for different populations around the world. To name a few, young adults seated in cubicle switch tasks 27 times an hour, or every 2 minutes (Marci, 2012, in Boston), medical students switch 12 times an hour, or every 5 minutes (Judd & Kennedy, 2011, in Australia), and middle school, high school and college students averaged less than 6 minutes (Rosen et al., 2013, in Southern California). Working and studying time seems to be segregated by the “continuous partial attention” problem (Rose, 2010), and this echoes the evidence that multitasking impairs information processing (Gilbert, Tafarodi, & Malone, 1993; Lang, 1995; Lang, 2000), leads to unregulated media usage that caused mental problems such as depression, isolation, and low-esteem, clinical problems such as losing sleep, and even worse harmful life consequence such as driving accidents, divorce or financial disruptions (Larose, Lin & Eastin, 2003; Song, LaRose, Eastin & Lin, 2004; Oulasvirta et al., 2012).

By making an appraisal of the trade-off effect between psychological dispositions and technology affordances, this study will contribute to a better understanding of the mechanism underlying people’s task-switching behavior and bring up insights on media coping strategies for different populations globally in this media saturated world.

2015 Awards

Investigation of the reservoir competency of two resident passerine birds for west nile virus

Emily Cornelius, graduate student, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology
Mentor: William Karasov, professor, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology

Abstract: Since its introduction to North America in 1999, West Nile Virus (WNV) has caused local declines of bird species, and illness and death in both equines and humans. Many bird species are known to be a reservoir of WNV, potentially amplifying local outbreaks or spreading the disease during migration. However, the reservoir competence for WNV of a number of avian species likely to visit our feeders is not known. We propose to study the reservoir competence of two temperate, resident passerine birds, the black-capped chickadee and American goldfinch, for WNV. After capture, birds will be infected with WNV and monitored for viremia titers, shedding, antibody production, body mass and clinical outcome. Ultimately, we expect that both species will be sensitive to WNV and that their performance will decline following exposure to the virus. As the boundary between wildlife and humans continues to decrease and global warming continues to alter vector distribution, special attention must be dedicated to investigating host-pathogen dynamics. This project will increase understanding of the role that temperate resident birds in Wisconsin might play in the spread and/or occurrence of an ecologically important infection disease, West Nile Virus.

Measuring Individual variation in health concepts to determine health outcomes

Matthew J. Jiang, graduate student, Department of Psychology
Mentor: Karl Rosengren, Ph.D, professor, Department of Psychology

Abstract: How does individual variation in their beliefs of health influence how they conceptualize health and their health decisions? This is a relatively unexplored area of health cognition. My proposed research project will revise a new measurement tool and use it to identify individual differences in health concepts related to health promotion and illness prevention. This tool will then be used to predict health decisions and outcomes. Our research includes specific plans to target a representative population, and specifically examine how motivation orientations influence health concepts and health outcomes. As an extension of past research, we also aim to identify physical health outcomes such as blood pressure, body fat, Body Mass Index (BMI). The results of this project have potential to impact health education and public policy.

The social determinants of antibiotic misuse: A mixed-methods study in rural india

Anna Barker, Ph.D, M.D., Epidemiology in the Department of Population Health

Mentor: Nasia Safdar, MD, Ph.D, assoicate professor, Infectious Diseases, School of Medicine and Public Health

Abstract: While its severity is agreed upon, the causes and solutions of antibiotic misuse are complex, and require immediate further investigation. Patient and provider understanding of the underlying motivations of both populations. Objectives include: 1) to identify the roles that economic instability, education, and healthcare access, have in a patient’s decision making regarding antibiotic use, and 2) To identify how pharmacists’ antibiotic dispensing practices are affected by their economic pressures, baseline knowledge of antibiotic resistance, and experience working with patients who use the pharmacy as their primary access to healthcare. Data collection will take place in five rural villages in the district of Allahabad, India, over a teen week period in the summer of 2015. This study utilizes a mixed-methods research design. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews will used to engage with pharmacists and community members, respectively. In both populations, a quantitative, cross-sectional survey will be conducted to assess levels of antibiotic resistance knowledge.

The subnational politics of doctrinal gender policies: backlashes to reproductive rights in Mexico

Camilla Reuterswaerd, graduate student, Department of Political Science

Abstract: Reproductive rights constitute critical global health and human rights issues that disproportionally affect women. In Latin America, where abortion polices remain restrictive, clandestine abortions resulting in high maternal mortality levels are a growing public health issue. The goal of the proposed dissertation project is to conceptualize abortion policy backlash and specify the determinants behind its onset. Advancing knowledge of the factors that trigger backlash and risk exacerbating maternal mortality levels will help us predict the durability of reform, and better understand obstacles to women’s fuller exercise of human rights and participation in society. Studying backlash politics in Latin America is of particular importance not only because backlashes have occurred in several countries yet remain understudied, but because women’s reproductive and human rights in the region continue to be weak. Based on quantitative and qualitative comparative examination of Mexican states, the findings of the project will travel to other federal system in the region, including the U.S., and contribute to a greater understanding of the politics of reproductive rights with important implications for women’s equitable and sustainable global health.

2013 Awards

Leveraging evidence based system-related strategies to improve medication safety in Ethiopian emergency departments

Ephrem A. Aboneh, graduate student, Social & Administrative Sciences, School of Pharmacy

Mentor: Michelle A. Chui, PharmD, Ph.D., assistant professor, Social & Administrative Sciences in the School of Pharmacy

Abstract: Background: Multiple system-related hazards exist in hospital emergency departments that are associated with increased risk of medication errors. Hospitals in the US and other developed countries have successfully implemented strategies that may be leveraged to support patient safety in hospitals in developing countries. Objectives: To identify hazards, strategies,

and recommendations to improve medication safety at Black Lion Hospital in
Ethiopia. Methods: Extensive literature review, observation and two sets of interviews, guided by the SEIPS Model, will be employed at the Black Lion Hospital in
Ethiopia. Data will be collected and analyzed using rigorous qualitative methods in order to develop a set of recommendations.

Risk of environmental exposure to emerging bat viruses in Uganda

Andrew J. Bennett, Ph.D. student, Comparative Biomedical Sciences

Mentor: Tony L. Goldberg, Ph.D., DVM., M.S., professor, Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine

Abstract: Emerging infectious diseases pose serious threats to public health, and efforts to conserve global biodiversity alike. Many emerging viral pathogens have their origins in the Pteropid fruit bats of the Old World, but direct

transmission from bats to people remains rare. Human outbreaks of the Filoviruses, Ebola and Marburg, are often linked to contact with wildlife that have become infected through poorly understood natural associations with the Pteropid bats that serve as viral reservoirs. A likely source of recent outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fever in great apes is

environmental contamination of shared food sources by infected bats shedding virus in urine, feces, or saliva at fruiting fig trees (Ficus spp.). I will examine the potential for environmental transmission of RNA viruses from the Pteropid bats of Kibale National Park, Uganda, to awell-studied chimpanzee troupe, through non-invasive sampling of bat saliva deposited on the forest floor in discrete ‘wadges’ of macerated fruit pulp and saliva. This would be a new direction for UW-Madison’s Global Health community, addressing the harrowing rise in viral hemorrhagic fever incidence in Uganda, with the Global Health Institute’s philosophy that animal and human health are irrevocably linked. This project would develop an entirely new method for observing the upstream mechanisms of viral transmission from bats to people, expand UW-Madison’s global health presence in rural Uganda, and promote a new, non-lethal bat surveillance strategy to monitor emerging viral threats to Uganda’s people and wildlife, exemplifying the Global Health Institute’s vision for ‘One Health,’ through the preservation of human and animal life.

Application of feminist intersectional approach to health behavior change model: interdisciplinary theoretical integration

Yangsun Hong, Ph.D. student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication

Mentor: Shawnika Hull, M.A., Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Abstract: This study attempts to apply the Intersectional theory from women’s studies to the Integrated model of HIV prevention behavior change from health communication field. The theoretical and empirical integration will be beneficial for both models. First, it includes the social and contextual

structures and limitations in health communication model that may be strongly related to adoption of health behavior, but many healthcommunication models have less considered. This study explores whether the effects of intersection of identities (e.g., Race * Gender * Income) can also be captured bypsychological predictors (attitudes, perceived norms, and self-efficacy) of the integrated model, and whether the intersectional effects influence behavior in ways consistent with the theoretical model (i.e. mediated through the predictors). Although intersectional research has focused on predicting the inequalities of health status across populations such as HIV status based on the perspective of public health, I would argue that intersectional effects also explain the differences of adoption of preventive behaviorssuch as HIV testing with the lens of public campaign.

Effects of friend networks on sexual debut among secondary school students in Malawi

Jinho Kim, Ph.D. student, Department of Sociology; Center for Demography and Ecology

Mentor: Monica Grant, Ms.C., Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Sociology

Abstract: In 2003, the concept of combination prevention approach was initially introduced as a strategy to combine evidence-based, mutually reinforcing biomedical, behavioral, and structural interventions, and since then, much attention has been paid to this approach. Despite such attention and interest, little is known about the effects of combined HIV/AIDS

prevention efforts. In response to the urgent need for rigorous study on the effectiveness of the combination approach, a research project was initiated by Africa Future Foundation in partnership with Daeyang Luke Hospital in Malawi and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). This project focuses on examining the combined effects of three different HIV/AIDS prevention strategies (i.e. HIV/AIDS education, male circumcision, and conditional cash transfer) among secondary school students in Malawi. This research setting provides unique opportunities to examine adolescents’ sexual norms, behaviors, and networks in school context. Examining school context is tremendously important because the high HIV prevalence rates in sub-Saharan Africa including Malawi appear to be closely linked to the majority of teenagers experiencing early sexual debut. Among many dimensions of school context, my focus lies on the role of friend networks in influencing students’ sexual behaviors. In consultation with the Africa Future Foundation team, I developed a module of friend networks and added it into the existing questionnaire for follow-up survey which is scheduled to begin this June. Through my study, I expect to contribute to an understanding of the mechanism where friend networks influence students’ sexual attitudes and behaviors.

Thailand’s rural primary healthcare expansion and its ongoing impact on health, mortality, and social enfranchisement

Stephanie Koning, Ph.D. student, Department of Population Health

Mentor: Ajay K. Sethi, Ph.D., M.H.S., associate professor, Population Health Sciences

Abstract: I am proposing to study the impact of Thailand’s rural primary healthcare expansion on maternal and infant mortality

and the social enfranchisement for ethnic minorities. Using mixed methods, I will determine whether the intervention in highland ethnic minority villages, beginning in 1985, had the following effects: 1) an immediate or lagged increase in hospital childbirths; 2) an increase in child birth registration; and 3) a reduction in maternal and infant mortality. This research has important implications for global health research and utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to study the social and political motivations behind changing health behaviors, the broader impacts of health system reform, and the protection of human rights through health promotion. Furthermore, it innovatively mixes epidemiological, demographic, and social research methods in the development context and merges a broad range of information sources. In order to complete this study, I am requesting funding to support the cost to travel to Thailand and meet with colleagues and mentors, conduct an exploratory pilot study, finalize my dissertation research aims and methods, and find a research assistant.

Uganda environmental pathogens and ecosystem services

Gail Rosen, Ph.D. student, Population Health Sciences, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Mentor: Tony L. Goldberg, Ph.D., DVM, M.S., professor of Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine

Abstract: Forests provide critical ecosystem services, including water purification. With forest fragmentation occurring globally, it is unclear how such services can be preserved. I propose a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to examining the value of small forest fragments for reducing pathogens in surface water. The study takes place in western Uganda, where forest

fragments persist in low-lying areas through which water flows and where the water- borne pathogen burden in people and animals is very high. The overall objective is to determine whether small forest fragments in this highly relevant setting have value for reducing water-borne pathogens. I hypothesize that even small forest fragments can act as “filters” and that passage of water through forest fragments improves water quality with respect to pathogens. This proposal, with its innovative “one health” approach to ecosystem changes as upstream determinants of health, is an excellent fit for the Global Health Institute’s focus on the role of “healthy places” in public health. Furthermore, this proposal is highly relevant to water sanitation and sustainability, both GHI priority topics.

Characterization of emerging arboviruses in Santa Marta, Colombia

James Weger, graduate student, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine 

Mentor: Jorge E. Osorio, SVM,  Department of Pathobiological Sciences

Abstract: Mosquito-borne viruses, or arboviruses, are an increasing public health threat and comprise some of the most medically relevant viral pathogens. Arboviruses include Dengue, West Nile, Yellow fever, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, among others. These viruses, specifically Dengue,

represent a massive threat to public health and relevant epidemiological data is necessary for continued understanding of transmission dynamics, predicting outbreaks and development of an effective vaccine. Colombia represents a unique environment for the study of arboviral pathogens and is home to all of the aforementioned viruses. In order to study the current status of arboviruses we will perform human dengue fever surveillance in northern Colombia. In addition, we will isolate mosquitoes from the area and test them for a panel of arboviral pathogens in order to understand infection rates in the vector. These studies will foster global collaboration and an increased epidemiological understanding of extremely important viral pathogens.