Rutgers’ impact in global health continues to grow, as faculty innovators receive seed grants to support new projects addressing health inequities in New Jersey and worldwide. This year, Rutgers Global Health Institute is awarding $50,000 in Global Health Seed Grants to five Rutgers faculty members who are conducting research and developing education, training, and capacity-building initiatives in collaborative, interdisciplinary ways.

Announced recently by Rutgers Global, the institute’s partner in awarding seed grants annually, the following faculty-led projects are being funded for implementation during the 2022–2023 academic year.


Ectoparasites and Diseases of Poverty in Low-Income Urban Communities

Alvaro Toledo
Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences

Collaborating with partners in the Rutgers Department of Entomology

Grant Category: Research

Low-income communities are disproportionately affected by neglected infectious diseases of poverty, such as leptospirosis, trench fever, and rickettsialpox. These diseases are responsible for a hidden health burden in poor communities, but surveillance programs to address their impact are lacking. To advance knowledge in this area, the project team will collect mice and arthropods from apartment buildings in four New Jersey cities (Jersey City, New Brunswick, Paterson, and Trenton) to screen for zoonotic and arthropod-borne human pathogens. Methodologies that combine urban pest control, insect taxonomy, and molecular techniques will be used to determine the role of arthropods in serving as sentinels to facilitate epidemiologic surveillance and inform disease prevention strategies.


Examining the Influence of Food Environments on Infant and Young Child Feeding among Subsistence Farming Communities in Senegal

Shauna Downs
Assistant Professor, Department of Urban-Global Public Health
School of Public Health

Collaborating with partners in the Rutgers School of Health Professions, Institut de Recherche en Santé de Surveillance Epidemiologique et de Formation, and Cheikh Anta Diop University

Grant Category: Research

Suboptimal infant and young child feeding practices in the first 1,000 days, from the time a child is conceived until they are 2 years old, directly contribute to high rates of malnutrition and child mortality in Senegal. Most Senegalese children (93 percent) are not fed according to international infant and young child feeding (IYCF) guidelines, leading to growth faltering and micronutrient inadequacies. This project will assess dimensions of food environments, such as food availability, affordability, and acceptability, among subsistence farming communities in Senegal to better understand how their environments influence IYCF practices. The project team will use a combination of food environment mapping and tools to assess the diversity of foods available, prices, and promotion within markets. These data will be linked to dietary data being collected via another project in Senegal, providing insight into the environmental barriers to food access among the country’s subsistence farming communities. The findings have the potential to inform interventions and policies aimed at improving the availability, affordability, and acceptability of nutrient-rich foods within communities experiencing a high burden of malnutrition.


Impact of Social Factors and Birth Weight on Mental Health, Self-Efficacy, and Parent-Infant Bonding among Postpartum Mothers in Nepal

Sangita Pudasainee-Kapri
Assistant Professor
School of Nursing–Camden

Collaborating with partners in the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden and the Maharajganj Nursing Campus and Maharajgunj Medical Campus of Tribhuvan University

Grant Category: Research

Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, affect approximately 14–30 percent of postpartum mothers in Nepal, a prevalence that is higher than global estimates of 8–17 percent. Such issues may contribute to poor parenting self-efficacy and impaired parent-infant bonding, which is foundational for long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes among children, more specifically among low birthweight children. In Nepal, which has the world’s third-highest prevalence of low birthweight children, research examining these dynamics is sparse. Knowledge about specific challenges facing mothers during the postpartum period in Nepal also is limited. This project will collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data about postpartum mothers from immunization clinics at public hospitals in the capital city, Kathmandu. This pilot study will support the need for ongoing evaluation of low birthweight infants and screening for mental health issues among postpartum mothers in Nepal. It also will offer preliminary data to develop interventions in Nepal for reducing disparities in perinatal mental health and health care and improving the health and well-being of children.


Integrative Community Therapy for Intimate Partner Violence Survivors in Quito, Ecuador

Chiara Sabina
Associate Professor, Center for Research on Ending Violence
School of Social Work

Collaborating with partners at Muyumpa

Grant Category: Education, Training, and Capacity Building

In Ecuador, 43 percent of women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime; however, the reach of institutional services for IPV survivors, such as housing shelters and transitional support, is limited there. Alternative services are needed to better respond to IPV in Ecuador. This project aims to establish an integrative community therapy initiative in Quito, the capital city. Integrative community therapy (ICT) is a group-based, non-hierarchical approach to promote community support and self-empowerment. Through a collaboration with Muyumpa, an ICT training center in Quito, the project team will train 10 IPV survivors to become ICT participant facilitators and conduct 30 dialogue circles in their communities with women at high risk of IPV. Surveys and qualitative interviews will be used to evaluate the initiative’s effects, for example, changes in the participant facilitators’ feelings of empowerment and leadership and the circle participants’ self-esteem, health and well-being, resilience, violence attitudes, and post-traumatic growth. Results from this project will form a strong basis for expanding the training and use of ICT to other populations and locations.


Using Machine Learning to Examine Quality of Care: Analyzing Nursing Notes to Investigate Racial Inequity in Brazil

Charles Senteio
Associate Professor, Department of Library and Information Science
School of Communication and Information

Collaborating with partners at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Grant Category: Research

Racial inequalities and ethnic biases in hospital-based care delivery can influence clinical practice and, ultimately, patient outcomes. In nursing notes about patients, the use of stigmatizing words and phrases—such as addict, non-compliant, crazy, dirty, clean, drug seeker—are considered indicators of nursing providers’ beliefs and attitudes toward patients that can impact clinical decision-making and quality of care. This project will use machine learning technology and associated processes to analyze nursing notes in medical records from the federal Clementino Fraga Filho University Hospital in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The study’s aim is to evaluate the efficacy of these methodologies for identifying potential racial inequities in care in a standardized way. The team also will determine effective algorithms that can be applied to future interventions and clinical support systems to promote patient-centered, equitable health care across stigmatized patient populations.


Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s Global Health Seed Grants and all Rutgers Global Grants. Learn more at, and subscribe to Global Health Connection to receive updates in the fall about the 2023 Global Health Seed Grants.