New global health awards tackle sustainable diets, antimicrobial resistance, domestic violence and more

Yoshi Kawaoka, a professor in the department of pathobiological sciences, left, established collaborative research in Sierra Leone during the Ebola virus outbreak and has now received a GHI Seed Grant to identify neglected and new human viruses in Africa. (Photo courtesy of the Kawaoka lab.)

Drawing on expertise from schools and colleges across campus, the 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) grant recipients showcase the breadth of disciplines needed to ensure health for all—from infectious diseases to economics, dairy science to biochemistry to medicine.

The awards, announced today, go to faculty, staff and students in Human Ecology (SoHE), Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), Letters and Science (L&S), and Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). They include six Seed Grants, three Graduate Student Research Awards, three Visiting Scholar Awards and one Faculty and Staff Travel Award.

This year’s grantees address topics from emerging infectious diseases to school milk programs, domestic violence to food security. They will bring visitors to UW-Madison to explore how fungi spread and to establish collaborations to improve women’s well-being and connect cities to their surroundings.

The Global Health Institute is dedicated to using the full breadth and depth of campus expertise to tackle today’s pressing global health problems and educate a new cadre of global health scholars and leaders. The grants and awards foster collaborative projects that address the complex determinants of health and disease, and ensure equitable and sustainable health for people, all life and the planet.

The Seed Grants, especially, are designed to launch new global research projects and make them competitive for sustained external funding. Seed Grants carry the largest awards of up to $50,000 each. This year’s recipients come from four schools and colleges.


Seed Grants

  • Nasia Safdar, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine, SMPH, leads a team that will tackle antimicrobial resistance, beginning with a one year pilot project in India. “Antibiotic resistance is a global public health crisis,” Safdar writes in her proposal. Ajay Sethi, an associate professor in population health sciences, and Dawd Siraj, a professor of medicine, join Safdar and partners in New Delhi on the project.

“Antimicrobial resistant infections kill. … Antimicrobial resistance hampers control of infectious diseases. … Antimicrobial resistance increases the costs of health care, jeopardizes health care gains to society and damages both trade and economics.” —Nasia Safdar, Department of Medicine

  • Michel Wattiaux, a professor in dairy science, CALS, and Heidi Busse, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, SoHE, lead the School Enrichment and Livelihoods Accelerated through Milk project to strengthen multisector collaborations linking dairy development with school milk programs in rural Ethiopia. The project aligns with the Ethiopian government’s priorities by helping to improve nutrition for children and communities, increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and enhance the mental, psycho-social and physical development of the next generation. Wattiaux and Busse are joined by Brian Christens, an associate professor in civil society and community studies, SoHE, and Ann Evensen, an associate professor in family medicine and community health, SMPH. Together, they will work with Ethiopian and Wisconsin partners from government, university and non-profit sectors, building upon prior partnerships to help ensure sustainability.
  • Jeremy Foltz, professor of agricultural and applied economics, CALS, will examine the effects of the Dodd-Frank legislation (it called for tracing the origins of conflict metals and led to the closing of mines) on domestic and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, the European Union and United States are considering further changes to conflict minerals legislation. “While it is generally accepted that Dodd-Frank caused significant declines in 3T (columbite-tantalum, tin and tungsten) mining, it is less clear whether or not ‘Obama’s Law,’ as it is known in local vernacular, has benefitted Congolese citizens,” Foltz writes in his application.
  • Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, Ph.D., professor of pathobiological sciences in the School of Veterinary Medicine, will catalog viruses circulating among West Africans with an eye to improving diagnoses, identifying new viruses and, potentially, preventing the next epidemic. “Neglected viruses … and novel viruses represent a major health risk for human populations,” he writes in his application. Ebola, which was not considered a major threat prior to the 2013 to 2016 outbreak, is an example. Without early diagnosis, the outbreak grew.

“The global health community must remain vigilant. The increase in global travel, overlap of human and animal habitats, climate changes and bush meat trafficking may facilitate the emergence and reemergence of viruses in the human population, potentially resulting in devastating outbreaks.”—Yoshihiro Kawaoka, Department of Pathobiological Sciences

  • James Ntambi, professor of biochemistry, CALS, and John Ferrick, associate director of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences International Programs, will work with the UW-Madison student organization, Village Health Project, to maximize crop output and add livestock, including cows, pigs, ducks and chickens, to Ugandan farms. A third of the children younger than five and 60 percent of their deaths are linked to undernutrition, “Although the causes of undernutrition in Uganda vary by region, they include availability and access to food, lack of dietary diversity and levels of poverty,” Ferrick writes. Introducing livestock to farms can have many benefits, from reliable fertilizer for crops to more dietary choices to jobs and education.
  • Leonelo Bautista, associate professor of population health sciences, SMPH, will develop tools to accurately predict the risk of cardiovascular disease in Latin America. His team will estimate the prevalence of major risk factors and the incidence of cardiovascular disease, and recalibrate and validate the Framingham equation, a commonly used tool for predicting the risk of cardiovascular disease. He will work with partners from the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru, and the University of Washington-Seattle.

Graduate Research Awards

  • Yoo Jiah, Department of Psychology, L&S, “Culture shapes appraisal and cardiovascular recovery from anxiety.”
  • Kaitlin Faye Mitchell, Department of Population Health Sciences, SMPH, “Impact of hospital antimicrobial stewardship policies in Manila, Phillipines.”
  • Iseli Hernandez, Psychology, L&S, “Cultural differences in parent-child endorsement of germ and cold weather theories of the common cold.”

Visiting Scholar Awards

  • Araceli Alonso, associate faculty in gender and women’s studies, L&S, will host Teresa Langle de Paz from the Autonomous University of Madrid ( Spain)- Foundation for a Culture of Peace to discuss a transnational approach to health, well-being and women’s leadership and consolidate collaborations for the UNESCO Chair on Gender, Well-being and a Culture of Peace. The women are co-directors of the chair awarded to UW-Madison.
  • Mary Beth Collins, director of the Centers for Research and Public Affairs, SoHE, will host Adriana Olivares from the University of Guadalajara, for two weeks to discuss collaborations for campus-community engagement projects related to the Connecting Landscapes project and the environmental landscape museum in Guadalajara, Mexico.
  • Anne Pringle, associate professor of botany, L&S, will host Martina Iapichino, a doctoral student from the Insitut de Physique de Nice, Universite Cote d’Azur, to collaborate and better understand the complex determinants of spore movement, which drives fungal diseases that affect people and ecosystems.

Faculty and Staff Travel Award

  • Bret Shaw, associate professor in life sciences communication, CALS, will visit Majimbo in western Kenya to conduct research and develop a communication plan to promote nutrition, food security and entrepreneurship through sustainable urban gardening in the region’s secondary schools.

This is the fourth year, GHI has awarded grants to UW-Madison researchers. Previous projects have resulted in multiple papers and peer-reviewed articles and dozens of professional presentations. Researchers developed an app that gives emergency room physicians the hospital-specific information they need and have received further funding from outside sources.

By Ann Grauvogl/ April 24, 2017