PhD Student, Population, Family and Reproductive Health
In 1944, Daesha Ramachandran’s grandmother got married at the age of 14. The marriage, arranged between the fathers of two middle-class Indian families, was not her decision.
For Ramachandran, this family history has had a lasting impact. She knows the practice of child marriage can curtail young women’s development and lead to myriad health risks. But she sees a still bigger problem. When any woman—young, old, single, married—has no decision-making power, her health and well-being are in jeopardy.
To fully understand population health trends, Ramachandran believes knowing who makes the decisions and why is essential. That’s why she wants to design and evaluate policies and programs that target the gender dimensions of health disparities. “I’m interested in exploring how the dynamics of household decision-making impact reproductive health outcomes among women in resource-poor settings,” she says.
While her professional interests align with applied research, much of Ramachandran’s experience to date has been program-related. By working with an early mother education program in Arizona led by the Bloomberg School’s Center for American Indian Health, she saw the limited choices available to many young Navajo women. At the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children in India, she increased health care availability to 2,000 families.
At grassroots organizations and in large institutions, Ramachandran has learned what works and what doesn't. She has met public health officials who, despite their best intentions, do a bad job of doing good. Poor planning and an absence of adequate evaluation measures are frequent obstacles to achieving results. "The way to really improve the lives of others is through sound research that can better inform practitioners and policymakers," she says. "I’d like to help shape the dialogue on what it means to do good well."