Mar. 13 2019

Student Research Around the World

From road safety in Thailand to a food-focused radio broadcast in Tanzania, the global reach of student research was on display in a recent poster session. Students in the Global Health Certificate shared findings from their six-month-long research projects across 10 countries.

One of 11 students participating in the March 7 poster session, Bilen Berhane reported on her experience in rural Tanzania, as she worked to combat malnutrition that stunts growth and brain development. With Project Concern International, she helped launch an educational radio program called “Mama Bhoke,” which centers around a fictional maternal character who imparts information to caregivers on how they can provide nutritious meals. In addition to enjoying learning more about nutrition and implementation, Bilen, a student in Sociomedical Sciences, said she “enjoyed working in Tanzania, a country with a rich culture and warm, welcoming people.”

In Thailand, Giuseppe Troisi, a student in Health Policy and Management, focused on improving road safety by identifying gaps in policy and public awareness that may be contributing to the country’s high motor vehicle mortality rate. Along the way, he developed a framework to strengthen traffic laws and their enforcement, ideas which received an audience at the highest level. Says Giuseppe: “I can’t describe the excitement of finding myself explaining, with confidence, the newest data on road accidents to a panel of representatives from the Ministry of Public Health, Interior, and Transport, at a meeting at the World Bank!”

Loss to follow-up—when a patient sees a doctor but isn’t heard from again—is one of the biggest challenges in public health and medicine. Kirsten Carlberg, who took home most original poster, explored the issue with the Centro de Organizacion e Investigacion Integral, an NGO in the Dominican Republic that works with vulnerable groups, including LGBT individuals. She identified a number of contributing factors like lack of transportation, depression, drug use, and discrimination against HIV status. Carlberg, a student in Epidemiology, says she heard from many patients who were concerned about the common practice of testing job applicants for HIV. These patients worried that employers would discriminate against them for their HIV status, denying them employment. 

Megan Ludington in Sociomedical Sciences applied her implementation sciences skills to improving health outcomes among migrant miners and their families in Lesotho, a small rural country in South Africa with a large migrant mining population, and the second highest prevalence of HIV in the world. Despite the availability of HIV services, HIV testing and treatment remains low in certain populations. Through a variety of methods, including text message appointment reminders, Ludington worked with ICAP to bring HIV treatment to migrant minors while also working to prevent TB.

In recent years, India has experienced an increase in alcohol use disorders. Another Epidemiology student, Alexander Catalano, whose findings were selected as best research poster, took part in a project in Goa to help people who have a family member with substance use issues. Led by the Indian nonprofit Sangath, the pilot study, which helps the target group build coping mechanisms and strengthen social supports, proved promising, suggesting the intervention could be effective in low- and middle-income settings well beyond the coastal city.