Global Health Seed Grants

Photo courtesy of Stephan Schwander

Rutgers Global Health Institute awards Global Health Seed Grants to faculty conducting collaborative, interdisciplinary activities that address health inequities in New Jersey and around the world. Our aim is to help faculty pursue new ideas and seed expanded research and funding. Grants are awarded in one of two categories: 1) Education, Training, and Capacity Building or 2) Research.

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 Global Health Seed Grants, awarded up to $10,000 each in partnership with Rutgers Global. These five faculty-led projects, which will be funded and implemented during the 2020–2021 academic year, address COVID-19 testing, HIV prevention, opioid misuse, school readiness, and urban health inequity.

A Cross-Sector Partnership to Promote Equity in School Readiness

Manuel E. Jimenez, MD, MS, FAAP, Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Grant Category: Education, Training, and Capacity Building

Collaborative Partners: Center for Literacy Development, Graduate School of Education; Department of World Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences–Camden; Greater Brunswick Charter School; Eric B. Chandler Health Center, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Even before children start kindergarten, their “school readiness”—in a sense, their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development—is a critical indicator of their long-term well-being. This includes their potential to thrive well into adulthood, including college attendance, career trajectory, and saving money for retirement. Young dual-language learners from low-income Latino backgrounds are at elevated risk for poor school readiness. Additional hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will amplify the inequities these children and their families face. Preschool closures, for example, and anticipated future disruptions have created an urgent need for innovative solutions to mitigate harms. Beginning locally in New Brunswick, this interdisciplinary project will pilot test a family-oriented virtual program that promotes literacy and language acquisition in both English and Spanish through the discussion of important health topics, while also evaluating the role of technology throughout. The family literacy program leverages the expertise of educators and pediatric primary care health professionals and the relationships they have with parents and children. This work will lay the foundation to expand and to prepare for an uncertain future.

Development of a Mobile Health App to Improve the Safe Use, Storage, and Disposal of Opioid Medications

Ann D. Bagchi, PhD, DNP, FNP-C, APN, Division of Nursing Science, School of Nursing

Grant Category: Research

Collaborative Partners: Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Sciences, School of Health Professions; North Jersey Community Research Initiative

Between 1999 and 2017, the United States saw nearly five times as many drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioid medications. A key driver of the epidemic is the misuse of legitimately prescribed opioid medications, such as more frequent dosing than prescribed and sharing prescribed medications with others. Education provided to patients via mobile technology may help to increase their knowledge of appropriate use of opioid medications; however, knowledge does not always translate into behavior modification. This study will use input from patients and providers to develop and test three versions of a mobile health app designed to improve appropriate opioid use. A goal of the study is to understand how patient-facing technology can be deployed to increase both knowledge and behaviors consistent with safe opioid use, storage, and disposal. Additionally, because the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased reliance on telehealth technologies, this study will provide evidence on how to ensure that telehealth solutions can be made more accessible and user-friendly for all consumers, beyond the opioid epidemic.

Development of an HIV Prevention Group Intervention for MSM Migrants in South Africa

Edward J. Alessi, PhD, LCSW, School of Social Work

Grant Category: Research

Collaborative Partners: Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, School of Public Health; McGill University School of Social Work; People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression, and Poverty

HIV prevalence among South African men who have sex with men (MSM) is among the highest in the world. Yet, the country’s robust HIV/AIDS response over the years has tended to overlook MSM migrants, which is a significant population due to the country’s constitutional guarantees of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The resulting disparities MSM migrants face present a serious challenge to reducing new HIV infections in South Africa and globally. The COVID-19 pandemic may magnify this risk because existing structural and psychosocial drivers of HIV—such as housing insecurity, lack of health care access, and perceived homophobia within their diaspora communities—will likely intersect with pandemic-related stressors. These increasingly complicated dynamics have the potential to create unprecedented health inequities for MSM migrants in South Africa. This pilot study will develop a group intervention and test its potential to increase knowledge about HIV prevention, increase self-efficacy in managing HIV risk, and reduce HIV-related stigma among MSM migrants in South Africa. This will lay the empirical foundation for testing the intervention on a larger scale, which could involve multiple languages, peer facilitators, and a control group.

Development of an Ultrasensitive COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Detection Method Using Upconversion Nanoparticle-Based Biosensing

KiBum Lee, PhD, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, School of Arts and Sciences

Grant Category: Research

Collaborative Partner: Sogang University

Testing remains a linchpin in worldwide efforts to control and understand the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast, selective, and highly sensitive tests for SARS-CoV-2 infection are critical for rapid and effective disease management as well as for monitoring the disease’s global spread. Biosensor technology, which measures biological or chemical reactions by generating signals proportional to the concentration of a substance in the reaction, offers promise for a new testing method that would provide clinicians and researchers with even more resources to battle COVID-19. This project aims to develop a biosensor that is luminescent resonance energy transfer-based and uses upconversion nanoparticle constructs to detect SARS-CoV-2 in blood samples. The outcome will feature the design and synthesis of a highly uniform technique for measuring the fluorescence intensity of graphene oxide emissions, a biochemical reaction that occurs when the coronavirus RNA’s aptamer changes structurally, thereby indicating the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

Transdisciplinary Intergenerational Community Engagement Model for Senior Health Promotion in Greater Newark

Diane Hill, PhD, Office of University-Community Partnerships, Rutgers University–Newark

Grant Category: Education, Training, and Capacity Building

Collaborative Partners: Advocates for Healthy Living Initiative, School of Public Affairs and Administration; Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research; Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences; Health Equity and Multicultural Initiatives, American Heart Association; City of Newark Department of Recreation, Cultural Affairs, and Senior Services; City of East Orange Division of Senior Services; Hillside Senior Services; Newark/North Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen; Screen NJ; University Hospital; West Ward Community Coalition

Urban health inequity is rampant throughout America, creating detrimental lags in health literacy and appropriate health care utilization within urban communities of color. Complicating matters, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to disrupt ways of connecting with communities well into the foreseeable future. In Newark, New Jersey, the state’s most populous city, older residents are at great risk for increasing declines in health and wellness due to the conflation of these factors. This intervention seeks to support the city’s senior population by launching a health promotion program, titled Living Your Best Life: Virtually. The initiative is delivered online as a five-week series of 15 video-based wellness workshops tailored for the city’s senior population, involving trusted members of the community as facilitators. The project also includes the creation of training webinars, designed for the Rutgers research community, on how to use the Transdisciplinary Intergenerational Community Engagement Model created by Rutgers University–Newark’s Office of University-Community Partnerships. This model focuses on the value of partnerships between university and community and how to create, strengthen, and nurture them.


Because global health places a priority on health equity, rather than on geographic location, the Global Health Seed Grants program is designed to address health disparities anywhere in the world, including Rutgers’ surrounding communities. Past seed grant awards have supported efforts in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as well as Brazil, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, and Uganda, among others. Brief descriptions of all projects funded by previous Global Health Seed Grants are available at these links:

For more information about the Global Health Seed Grants, contact Arpita Jindani, manager of education and training at Rutgers Global Health Institute. Additional funding opportunities also are available through Rutgers Global.

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