We asked our Rutgers Global Health Institute core members and student volunteers to share what they’ve been up to. Their responses, which run the gamut, include tuberculosis interventions around the world, social emergency medicine in California, sex education in Chile, health system strengthening in Ghana, keeping the Rutgers community safe, and organizing guest lectures about public health nutrition.
These accounts represent just a small sample of Rutgers’ extensive and widespread commitment to global health.
Supporting global efforts to end the tuberculosis epidemic
Core faculty member Rajita Bhavaraju, the deputy director of Rutgers’ Global Tuberculosis Institute, is on the Programme Review Committee for TB REACH Wave 10, a grant program sponsored by Global Affairs Canada; the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office; and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). She described her role:
The ability to work on this committee has allowed me to contribute to innovative work in health system strengthening to integrate tuberculosis (TB) prevention and care into various health services. The process consists of two selective proposal review stages and an intensive two-week, in-person meeting in Bangkok in September to make final award decisions.
Traditionally, there have been many partnerships between TB and HIV-care providers as well as use of traditional, long-course treatment for TB prevention in vulnerable people. This round [of the grant program], the emphasis is on partnering with programs focusing on maternal and child health, COVID-19, and contacts of individuals with TB. Additionally, there have been great strides in short-course preventive TB treatments, which have great potential for increasing uptake in affected individuals and completion of therapy.
Social emergency medicine experiences
Kwame McCain is a second-year medical student at New Jersey Medical School. He checked in with this update from Oakland, California, where he is completing a research externship in social emergency medicine at Highland Hospital, known for its pioneering role in this growing branch of health care:
My externship has allowed me to learn more about social emergency medicine, which explores the interplay of social forces and the emergency care system as well as how these forces act together to affect the health of individuals and their communities.
This manifests itself as finding avenues for physicians in the emergency department—which is often visited by individuals from vulnerable populations for preventable conditions due to a complexity of social and environmental factors—to screen patients effectively and provide them with access to the resources needed for a safer discharge from the hospital. I have been lucky enough to observe some of these interventions and attend lectures on how to use these screenings and resources to better help patients.
Sex education as advocacy
Core faculty member Leslie Kantor was a plenary speaker at the 12th Congress of the Chilean Society of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology and Obstetrics. The professor and chair of the Department of Urban-Global Public Health in the Rutgers School of Public Health shared a recap:
Chile had previously failed to pass legislation related to sex education. At the conference, I presented an overview of the evidence base for comprehensive sexuality education, and several participants said that this would provide renewed energy for trying to get legislation passed in the country. My talk also reviewed global sex education policies compared to implementation, the incorporation of digital-based education, and the role of health care providers in discussing sexuality with patients.
Strengthening health systems through decentralized dispatch services
Rohit Mukherjee, a first-year medical student at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, provided this update following his recent return to the United States after spending eight months in Ghana as a U.S. Fulbright research fellow:
I was involved with the USAID-funded Acute Care and Emergency Referral Systems project in Ghana, which addressed the discontinuity among community, sub-district, and district level referral services by establishing the country’s first decentralized municipal emergency dispatch centers. I led a critical role at centers in Gushegu and Nkwanta South municipal districts by aggregating data related to strengthening referral systems for maternal and neonatal emergencies.
I researched aspects of generating demand within communities for facility-based medical care during childbirth, versus home births, which come with increased health risks. I also gathered data on improving the timeliness of referrals for medical care when pregnancy and childbirth complications occur. This multiyear project included public awareness campaigns and direct partnerships with Ghana Health Service, National Ambulance Service, Columbia University, University of Ghana, and Catholic Relief Services, contributing to the appropriate management of over 2,700 maternal and neonatal emergencies in this region.
University affairs amidst a global pandemic
Core professional member Antonio Calcado has been stewarding Rutgers through the pandemic in his role as the university’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. As we enter our fourth academic year with COVID-19 as a factor, he shared what he’s focused on this summer:
Keeping our community safe is priority number one. Safety from different stressors, such as COVID-19, monkeypox, violence, and climate changes. My responsibilities deal with all of these and more, but my priority this summer is aligning COVID-19 protocols with the return of our students and the recommendations to be implemented through the university’s Future of Work report.
We’re having weekly meetings and looking at case counts, ICU beds, hospitalizations, and deaths, all of which informs our decisions surrounding masking, occupancy, environmental factors, and clinical conditions. We’re also committed to a multilayered communication strategy that supports the needs of many internal stakeholders and external partners.
Diverse voices in the classroom
Core faculty member Joachim Sackey, an assistant professor in the School of Health Professions and School of Public Health, is teaching “Global and Public Health Nutrition” to master’s students in both schools. In July, he provided an update on the summer course:
Last week, we had a guest speaker, Ahmed Raza, nutrition and food systems officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. He talked to the students about improving access to nutrition-related services among rural women, which included an overview of the organization’s activity in rural areas and case studies from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bolivia, and West and Central Africa.
Guest lecturers I organized for the class earlier this summer spoke on vital topics such as food justice, sustainable diets, global and U.S. food insecurity, and food systems. In August, we’ll welcome speakers who will be lecturing on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or the federal grant program better known as WIC, and other public health nutrition initiatives as well as health disparities.