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International Health

Current Student Research Highlights

PhD student investigates how evidence is translated into effective public health policy in Niger

Sarah DalglishSarah Dalglish, a PhD candidate and Sommer Scholar in International Health, recently finished a 6-month project in Niger researching how that country effectively adopted and implemented integrated community case management (iCCM) for childhood illness. Faculty at Johns Hopkins have led groundbreaking research demonstrating the effectiveness of community health workers in treating childhood illnesses, specifically for the 3 top killers of children: diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. This evidence has slowly been affecting global and national health policies, with mixed results. Sarah was part of a 6-country study to investigate the national implementation process in sub-Saharan Africa.

A recent Lancet article found that a quarter of Niger’s 43% drop in childhood mortality between 1998 and 2009 was due to the implementation of iCCM and related policies. Sarah’s team performed in-depth interviews with country policy makers and conducted an extensive documentary review to learn about the reasons behind the country’s successful implementation. She recently disseminated her results at a workshop in Niamey for representatives from the ministry of health, UNICEF, WHO and other partners. Sarah is currently working on a more in-depth analysis of the link between scientific evidence and iCCM policy outcomes, as well as contributing to a set of policy briefs for the international policy community highlighting the 6-country study’s finding. She has also begun conducting interviews with top-level policy makers at UNICEF, USAID, WHO, and CIDA to investigate how policies such as iCCM are created at the global level.  These results should help provide a better understanding of how the best evidence can be translated into good policy and effective programs to reduce child mortality in low- and middle-income countries.

The Norovirus in Latin America

Sarah Ballard, a PhD candidate in the Department of International Health, received a 2012 Center for Global Health Field Placement Award to study norovirus in Latin America. Norovirus is second only to rotavirus as a cause of diarrhea in Latin America in children hospitalized for diarrhea. The Placement Award helped her continue her research that will become the basis for her doctoral topic, Genetic characterization of norovirus in individuals with and without diarrhea, and relationship with clinical severity in Peru. She is working closely with her faculty adviser, Professor Robert Gilman from International Health, who leads the Norovirus Hospital Study in Lima, Peru. The study examines the risk factors, genetic types and co-infections associated with notovirus. During her most recent research visit to the site, funded by the Placement Award, her team found endemic norovirus contributed to diarrhea in a population of Peruvian military recruits in Iquitos, Peru.

SellarDeveloping mHealth interventions in Bangladesh 

Kelsey Zeller is a JHU – Global mHealth Initiative (JHU–GmI) intern completing a six-month practicum in Bangladesh funded in part through a Center for Global Health Placement Award. As a second-year MSPH student from the Global Disease Epidemiology and Control program, Kelsey has experienced first-hand what is required to take an mHealth intervention from theory to reality. She is working closely with a Hopkins’ collaborating partner, mPower Health, to incorporate research needs and field requirements into a mobile health system design.

Kelsey has also been involved in the formative research for mTikka—a project that aims to increase timely vaccination across Bangladesh (Tika means vaccine in Bangla). She observed immunization sessions, discussed challenges in immunization with vaccine workers, and guided these vaccine workers through system mock-ups to gather user comments and feedback.

"Having Kelsey on the ground, working with our partners in-country, but also spending time in the field to document vaccination activities has helped us design a system that will meet end-user needs," says assistant professor Alain Labrique, JHU-GmI director and Zeller’s advisor.


Student Research Helps Reveal the Health Effects of Indoor Cookstove Use in Latin America

As a master’s student in International Health, PhD candidate Suzanne Pollard received a Center for Global Health Field Research Award in 2010 to conduct an independent study in Puno, Peru, on indoor air pollution and biomarkers of exposure. In Peru—where the large majority of rural households use biomass fuels for their cooking and heating needs—the effects of exposure to indoor biomass smoke on the health of rural populations have yet to be fully investigated. The aims of Pollard’s study were (1) to estimate exposure to particulate matter due to biomass fuel combustion for household members in a rural population in Peru, (2) to compare different methods of measuring PM exposure in this community, and (3) to characterize the household and behavioral factors associated with different levels of exposure.

Results of her research supported a larger study examining the burden and risk factors for chronic cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases in the region and their relationship to indoor air pollution. This collaboration resulted in the recently published article she co-authored, entitled, Chronic exposure to biomass fuel is associated with increased carotid artery intima-media thickness and a higher prevalence of atherosclerotic plaque. Pollard is currently working on publishing the final results of her study and her preliminary results helped secure a new grant to work in Ayacucho, Peru, on a cookstove study.

Contact for the Department of International Health: Brandon Howard at 410-502-9059 or