Currently Funded Projects

The Fund for Research and Innovation in Global Health and Social Development supports cutting-edge research and interventions to address pressing global health and social development challenges. Information on the annual request for proposals and eligibility requirements can be found here. 

Pinar Alakoc, PhD, Committee on International Relations
Frontline Health Workers and the Integration of Syrian Refugees in Turkey

This research will examine the ways in which frontline doctors, nurses, and social workers shape public attitudes and behaviors toward Syrian refugees in Turkey. It will also investigate how these individuals can support or undermine health service delivery for refugees, as well as the factors that shape these different behaviors, and their connections to broader integration efforts.

Baris Ata, PhD, Booth School of Business
Last Mile Delivery of Life-Saving Health Interventions in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has extremely high incidence rates of malaria and other arthropod-borne diseases. Preventing and treating these conditions is extraordinarily difficult because just 30 percent of Congolese people have access to medical aid. The country also suffers from profound infrastructural fragility and security challenges in large swaths of the east and southeast of the country. Communities in this region of the country are sometimes called “last-mile” communities because many necessary products never reach the last mile of the supply chain due to logistical challenges and assumptions about cost and feasibility. As such, many products that could improve public health are never supplied to these communities. This study focuses on providing a model and evidence base for a sustainable and cost-effective last-mile supply chain for delivering life-saving and life-enhancing solutions and identifying an effective solution for household access to malaria prevention in high burden, endemic communities. The ultimate goal of this project is to illustrate that there are strategic ways to conduct last-mile delivery and monitoring and evaluation that can be cost-efficient and provide stable, reliable services to the communities where life-saving products are needed the most.

Kavi Bhalla PhD, Public Health Sciences/BSD
Research to Support Large Scale Investments in Bicycling in the Cities of India, Bangladesh, and Ghana

This study will assess the current state of bicycling in Delhi, Dhaka, and Accra, including the demographic, socioeconomic, and trip characteristics of cyclists, and what incentivizes and deters bicycling. Self-reported and police-reported crash data will also be analyzed to evaluate the key risk factors for bicycle crashes to develop a road audit tool to determine bikeability, which can be used to assess the bicycling safety and comfort of the urban built environment in low- and middle-income country settings.

Alida Bouris, PhD, MSW, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
We Girls (Chven Gogoebi / ჩვენ გოგოები): A Photovoice Study to Address Gender-Based Violence and the Mental, Sexual, and Reproductive Health of Street-Connected Girls in the Republic of Georgia

In the Republic of Georgia, street-connected youth are a relatively new phenomenon, with a current estimated population of over 2,500 youth. Internal armed conflicts and the 2008 war with Russia also displaced families from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which increased the migration of certain young people to the streets. These youth often experience violence and engage in illicit activities for survival. Street-connected girls, particularly those from the Roma community, often experience sexual assault and gender-based violence (GBV). This project seeks to develop and implement a participatory action research study that will engage girls in the use of Photovoice to analyze and address gender-based violence and its impacts on the mental, sexual, and reproductive health (MSRH) of street-connected girls in Georgia. In Photovoice, participants receive a camera to document their lives and then share, discuss, and analyze photos in a group setting. Photovoice is a powerful youth participatory action research method, which democratizes research by building youths’ capacities to analyze and transform their own lives and communities. Prior research has used Photovoice to examine GBV and MSRH in diverse groups of youth, but none have done so among Georgian and Romani street-connected girls. 

Anticipated outcomes of this research include providing emerging social science researchers with rigorous training on conducting transformative research and strategic communications on GBV and MSRH among street-connected girls as well as contributing to the science focused on this marginalized community. Additional contributions include community-oriented presentations, policy recommendations, and advocacy briefs to shift public conversations on street-connected girls from one of stigma and blame to one informed by actual experiences.

Cara Brook PhD, Ecology and Evolution
Safeguarding Food Security to Reduce Risk of Bat-borne Zoonoses in Rural Madagascar

Partnering with Health In Harmony, an organization working in local communities to safeguard rainforests while simultaneously promoting human wellbeing, this project will implement a community-designed alternative subsistence program to alleviate human reliance on wildlife for subsistence to reduce the risk of bat-borne virus spillover (such as with COVID-19). This work offers a rare opportunity  ty to pair scientific research into the biological drivers of viral emergence with active intervention efforts designed to interrupt zoonoses before they occur.

Jessica Darrow, PhD, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
Mapping Systems of Care for Unaccompanied Minors at the US Mexico Border

Research has shown that care providers in the US receive limited and insufficient information about the physical and mental health needs of unaccompanied minors who enter care at the US-Mexico border. Without this information, it is difficult for service providers to effectively identify and meet these needs. This project will conduct research on the US-Mexico border context to learn about the physical and mental health needs that minors present in Northern Mexico border communities and how providers in those places are identifying and responding to these concerns. The data from this research will better articulate the needs of unaccompanied children, with the goal of providing policymakers and practitioners with accurate information to better allocate resources and improve care practices.

Gina Fedock, PhD, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
Building Global Collaboration to Advance the Health and Human Rights for Women in Mexico, Kenya, and Sierra Leone

This pilot study focuses on creating a novel multinational collaboration to advance human right protections and improve incarcerated women’s health and wellbeing in Mexico, Kenya, and Sierra Leone. Incarcerated women from these communities will be hired as Project Coordinators and will co-facilitate virtual focus groups. They, along with the research team, will examine the lived experience of incarcerated women spanning multiple countries and diverse contexts to inform potential policies and practices that can improve the health and wellbeing of incarcerated women.  

Anu Hazra, MD, Biological Sciences Division
First-Person Narratives to Promote LGBTQ+ Affirmative Medical Education in India

Indians identifying as LGBTQ+ face an increased risk of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, and mental health problems. Despite this higher burden, LGBTQ+ individuals in India have challenges in accessing healthcare facilities. The challenges include experiences of stigma, discrimination, and abuse, among others. The lack of sensitization and training among Indian health professionals is considered a main contributor to these inequities. Until recently, the curricula used to train health professionals in India portrayed LGBTQ+ experiences as a crime or as a mental disorder. New federal laws and directives from India’s medical education accrediting body now mandate the development and implementation of LGBTQ+ inclusive practices in healthcare. However, there is a lack of culturally appropriate teaching material to teach and sensitize health professionals. Using a medical narratives approach, this project draws on several arts-based participatory methods to create first-person narratives on the experiences of people from the LGBTQ+ community navigating the Indian healthcare system. The narratives of LGBTQ+ persons are designed to elucidate the basic competencies required to practice LGBTQ+ affirmative healthcare. The narratives and accompanying teaching guidelines will be available in a free digital library accessible to educators and trainers across the country. The UChicago Center in Delhi will hold a national conference for educators of health professionals and other trainers who could potentially use this content for teaching. The ultimate goal is the development of guidelines for using these narratives across India. 

Aimee Hilado, PhD, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
Preparing a Workforce to Address Significant Psychological Distress Among Afghan Children and Youth in the U.S. Unaccompanied Children Program

This multi-phase project will examine behavior trends among unaccompanied minor participants and gaps in training for frontline residential staff working in government-sponsored unaccompanied minors residential programs for Afghan youth in Chicago. Findings from the initial exploratory phase will inform targeted, advanced training with particular attention to de-escalation strategies for severe psychological distress and staff burnout. The project includes training implementation and evaluation, and opportunities to scale-up training across other unaccompanied minor programs and programs serving diverse, forcibly displaced youth.

Leyla Ismailova, PhD, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
Pilot-testing an Economic Intervention for Youth Substance Use Prevention in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is located on the second heaviest drug trafficking route in Asia, running from Afghanistan (the world’s largest opium producer) and Iran to Russia and Western Europe. Because of this, opiates, marijuana, and other drugs are easily available to young people in Azerbaijan at a low price. Poverty in childhood is shown to be strongly correlated with drug use among youth in Azerbaijan. To address the social determinants of youth substance use, this study adapts, refines, and pilot-tests the feasibility of an economic strengthening intervention with at-risk 13- to 17-year-old adolescents and caregivers in Azerbaijan. Working with local partners in Azerbaijan (the SOS Children’s Villages, the Centre for Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, and the National Drug Addiction Centre), the project works to adapt an empirically tested, asset-based economic intervention to ensure its cultural relevance, viability, and inexpensive delivery. This study is expected to have three outcomes: 1) a translated and adapted intervention protocol, which includes two manuals (for youth and caregivers) on savings methods and financial planning as well as a monthly mentoring protocol; 2) a peer-reviewed manuscript describing the results of the pilot study, including the potential of a theory-driven intervention targeting poverty to address substance use risks among at-risk youth; and 3) a grant application to the National Institute of Health for a larger efficacy trial. 

Anne Karing, PhD, The Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics
Tackling Social Constraints to Complete Covid-19 Vaccination in Sierra Leone

This project will implement a field experiment in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to test if misinformation and/or vaccine literacy training changes individuals’ ability to discern false from true information, their likelihood of getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and the extent to which misinformation is spreading within their social network. This project will also use administrative data on Covid-19 vaccinations to describe how different socio-economic indicators such as occupation, gender, and ethnicity are associated with the take-up of the second dose of the vaccine in a country where vaccine uptake has lagged, with only a 27% coverage. 

Greg Karczmar, PhD, Biological Sciences Division
A Paradigm Shift for Breast Cancer Screening in Uganda: Genetic Screening and Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging

In sub-Saharan Africa, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer, and in Uganda, a 5 percent annual rise in breast cancer incidence has been reported. It is estimated that more than 2,500 new cases and 1,300 deaths occurred in Uganda in 2020. Breast cancer survival in Uganda remains disproportionately low, with the 5-year overall survival rate at 51.8 percent. The low survival rate has been attributed to scarcity of early detection programs, lack of adequate treatment, stigma, health system delays, and costs along the breast cancer care pathways. Early detection is key to increasing survival rates. However, there are concerns that MRI is too expensive, lacks specificity, and is time consuming for radiologists in Uganda to interpret. This project addresses these concerns with quantitative ultrafast dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI methods and cancer risk models that include both MRI data and results of genetic screening, combined with use of artificial intelligence to improve image quality. The proposed methods will assist physicians in rapid and effective interpretation of MRI results. This pilot project is the first step towards an ambitious screening program with genetic testing, quantitative MRI, and the use of artificial intelligence to improve image quality and increase diagnostic accuracy. This study’s fast, reliable, and inexpensive MRI methods for breast BC screening promises to have huge impact in addressing the critical need for early cancer screening and has the potential to be expanded to surrounding countries in the future.

Darnell Motley, PhD,  Department of Medicine/BSD
Sexual Wellness & Growth Programming for Sexual Minority Men in Kisumu, Kenya

This project seeks to adapt the Sexual Wellness and Growth (SWAG) Toolkit for use among sexual minority men in Kenya. Developed in response to the continued disproportionate impact of HIV on this population, SWAG include topics like healthy communication in relationships, interpersonal disclosures, and trauma and stigma. The research team will use the SWAG Toolkit as the foundation for tailored holistic health programming. After the intervention has been adapted, we will then conduct a small pilot to assess acceptability, feasibility, and changes in health knowledge among sexual minority men in Kisumu, Kenya. 

Funmi Olopade, MD, Department of Medicine/BSD
Assessing the Impact of Covid-19 on Education and Teenage Pregnancy in Rural and Underserved Communities in Ghana

In collaboration with local partner Dr. Alex Eduful and NGO Family Support Lifeline (FASUL), this project seeks to better understand how children in rural and less resourced areas of Ghana cope with new educational demands, engagement in risk behaviors, and other pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This pilot project will feature detailed interviews with 15  respondents: five each from three Ghanaian local government areas of Agona West Municipality (Central Region), Ejisu municipality and Ahafo Ano South District (Ashanti Region). Interviews will explore the challenges in education these individuals face while aiming towards the development of interventions that promote empowerment and social inclusion for all leaners in Ghana.

Raul Sanchez de la Sierra, PhD, Harris School of Public Policy
Reducing Vulnerability to Violence in Civil War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

This research project will study armed combatants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by leveraging a once-in-a-lifetime research relationship with one of the largest armed groups nurtured since 2015 through continuous 7 yearlong fieldwork. With authorizations from both the armed group and state authorities, the research team will introduce interventions on active combatants, from the time they join, to decrease their tendency to be violent against civilians. The project will deploy a 6-month long perspective taking program, a tool used in psychology shown to promote empathy, to determine the extent to which combatants use violence against civilians in the months and years following the program. We will contrast this intervention to another intervention targeting the misperceptions of most combatants in this setting, from the angle of their self-interest. The second intervention focuses on international humanitarian law to train combatants to the specific actions against civilians that could expose combatants to prosecution, and will examine whether increased knowledge of legal risks reduces certain types of abuses against civilians. 

Haun Saussy, PhD, Social Science Division
Medical Ethics in Chicago and Rwanda

The project aims to create a course on medical ethics for 2023-24 that will be co-taught by faculty at the University of Chicago and the University of Global Health Equity

(UGHE), a recently founded campus for medical education in Butaro, Rwanda. This collaboratively taught, international, multidisciplinary course will address its bilocal public with both lectures and small-group sessions. The value of the course will derive from the powerful differences in two settings. Kiphart Center funds will support faculty in both locations in developing, building partnerships, experiencing each other’s clinical world, and learning from teaching. The primary goal of this project is to lay the groundwork for additional courses in future years, involving a rotating cast of Chicago colleagues in the specialties of most acute relevance to the UGHE faculty: infectious diseases, oncology, and obstetrics and gynecology, among others. The pan-African compass of UGHE’s recruitment ensures a broad audience for our conversations, and thus wider networks of dissemination of medical ethics. These two institutions coming together will encourage dialogues about the most pressing ethical and economic challenges that practitioners (and patients and taxpayers) encounter in their two settings. It is anticipated that this approach can serve as a model for future partnerships and medical education paradigms among diverse educational institutions in the US and internationally.

Thomas Talhelm, PhD, Booth School of Business
Understanding the Transformation into a Post-Pandemic World: Social and Cultural Determinants of Health: A Cross-National Study

While daily life has generally resumed to “normal,” COVID-19 still directly and indirectly affects the health and well-being of citizens around the world, killing thousands per week, and afflicting many with long-COVID. Concerns about COVID-19 produce numerous psychological uncertainties, anxieties, and emotional discomforts, hindering economic recovery worldwide. This project will collect primary data from 2,600 people in 14 countries around the world to develop a more in-depth understanding of the long-term effects of COVID-19. The collaborative team of researchers from the University of Chicago, Angola, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Canada, Chile, China, Ghana, Japan, Indonesia, India, Serbia, Spain, and Thailand will examine the coping and social support strategies people pursue in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and how psychological health is related to coping strategies, culture, and national policies. The team will examine the social and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to the present; whether the social and mental health impacts are the same across cultures, or whether they are strongly shaped by differences in culture and policy; what policies governments and nonprofits should prioritize to improve well-being and mental health as societies transition from COVID-19; and what societies can do to minimize the gravity of future pandemics. Anticipated outcomes include the creation of knowledge-sharing partnerships for policy makers, stakeholders, and public health officials across countries as well as strengthening ties between the United States and international researchers in the field of public health and social science.

Jenny Trinitapoli, PhD, Social Science Division
Child Mortality in Polygynous Contexts: Ghana, Malawi, and Senegal

Children born to married parents enjoy better health outcomes and are less likely to die before their first birthday compared to children of unmarried mothers. Incidence of child mortality is a key barometer of the well-being of a country’s children and, more broadly, an indicator of socioeconomic progress. These patterns are conclusive and well established. What remains unclear is whether children of polygynous mothers receive the same health benefits as children born to monogamously married women, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where polygyny is most prevalent. This project seeks to understand the relationship between polygynous family structure and child survival in African contexts. A body of research spanning the social and health sciences on the relationship between plural marriage and child health in sub-Saharan Africa points tentatively in a negative direction, and the findings have been used by policymakers to label polygyny as a “harmful cultural practice.” But polygyny remains an ongoing practice in many communities, and the evidence of its negative effects is far from conclusive. This project will use unique data sources and methodologies to estimate the relationship between family structure and child mortality, leveraging unique longitudinal data from the African Demographic Surveillance Systems in Ghana, Malawi, and Senegal. The project promises to make significant contributions to an understudied issue by projecting polygyny and child mortality into the future, and is potentially pathbreaking by clarifying the future implications of family structure on child health in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Alan Zarychta, PhD, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
Decentralization, Covid-19, and the Governance of Municipal Health Systems in Honduras

 This project aims to understand the institutional contexts that shape governance and performance of local health systems in developing countries. The project will examine the relationships across various levels of government to determine the conditions necessary to sustain positive change in municipal health service delivery following fifteen years of decentralization of the healthcare sector reform in Honduras. In addition to performing a comparative analysis of the subnational health data, the project will administer health worker and inter-organizational network surveys to characterize the attitudes and behaviors of health workers in 270 health centers in 58 municipalities. Together with past data, this project will analyze the dynamics associated with health sector decentralization reforms in terms of governance structure, health services outcomes, and the ability to support local health systems in the face of a major health crisis.

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