Fulbright Supports Doctoral Student
Sarah-Blythe Ballard investigates a top cause of child mortality in Peru
Peru’s rotavirus vaccine campaign against diarrheal disease—a top killer of young children—is a public health success story, with a coverage rate between 80 and 90 percent.
Now, the country’s health officials have turned their focus to norovirus, another leading cause of pediatric diarrheal disease.
International Health doctoral student Sarah-Blythe Ballard, MD, MPH ’10, whose work in Peru during much of the past two years has focused on diarrheal disease, recently received a major boost to advance her research: a 2014-2015 Fulbright U.S. Student Award.
The prestigious grant will allow her to take a pilot project to the next level. She’s working to measure the relationship between norovirus pathogens and severity of pediatric diarrheal disease in a “post-rotavirus” context.
“It will give us an idea of what the rest of the world’s going to look like in a couple of years, after other countries roll out the [rotavirus] vaccine,” said Ballard, whose epidemiological work will be based at the Instituto Nacional de Salud del Nino, a children’s hospital in Lima.
“We’re trying to get a glimpse of what’s going to happen in terms of identifying pathogens that are the greatest threat to kids to help us start to develop vaccines,” said Ballard, whose project includes training local health workers in data collection and other research methods.
Her investigation is highly dependent on the research network built over the past 30 years by her advisor, International Health professor, Robert Gilman, MD.
“The project wouldn’t be possible without it,” she said.