Alliance for a Healthier World at Johns Hopkins awards grants to eight interdisciplinary teams

Awards support projects designed to impact health inequities in low-, middle-income countries

The Alliance for a Healthier World at Johns Hopkins University has awarded grants of up to $25,000 to eight interdisciplinary teams from across the university for projects designed to directly impact health inequities in low- and middle-income countries.

A total of $170,000 in grants were awarded to teams containing a combination of researchers from the Applied Physics Lab, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Carey Business School, the Berman Institute of Bioethics, Jhpiego, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and the Whiting School of Engineering.

Their projects will focus on communities in Bolivia, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Peru, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, and Uganda, as well as the White Mountain Apache and Sioux tribes in the U.S.

"One thing we found from the first planning grants is that proposals were submitted by teams where the core of the team members were already working together," said David Peters, the alliance's director and chair of the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School. "For future rounds, we are hoping to provide opportunities to expand the teams further, and to find ways for people who aren't already working together to join existing collaborations and create new ones."

This is the first round of planning grants awarded by the Alliance for a Healthier World, formerly the Global Health Signature Initiative. Proposals for a second cycle, with awards up to $25,000, are due by Nov. 15; additional details will soon be announced on the Alliance for a Healthier World website and in the monthly internal funding digest on

Later this month, the alliance will host the first in a series of events designed to stimulate the type of new collaborations Peters and his team aim to support. The event, which will bring together faculty and staff from across the university, will be held on Oct. 26 at the George Peabody Library. Registration is required and space is limited; more information is available online.

The research proposals funded in the first round of grants include:

"Strengthening Health Service Delivery and Building Human Capacity to Reduce Maternal Morbidity and Mortality in Sierra Leone"

In Sierra Leone, the probability of a woman age 15-49 dying from maternal causes is 58 percent, compared to 1 percent in the United States. The lack of women's reproductive health providers and inadequate levels of basic and comprehensive obstetric care are major factors affecting increased maternal mortality and morbidity, as is the loss of workforce suffered during the 2014 Ebola crisis. To address these gaps, the project aims to develop a phased, comprehensive, sustainable, and high-quality strategy to build capacity in women's reproductive health care.

  • Team members: Soumyadipta Acharya, Jean Anderson, Rachel Chan-Seay, Grace Chen, Jenell Coleman, Maqbool Dada, Ahizechukwu Eke, Clark Johnson, Nancy Kass, Ekene Ojukwu, John Sampson, and Jeffrey Smith

"Addressing Health Disparities Impacting Suicide: A Systems Dynamic Approach for Planning Prevention Programming with Displaced Populations"

Suicide rates for refugee and displaced populations are thought to be higher than in non-displaced populations, likely due to a combination of elevated traumatic exposure, including gender-based violence, socioeconomic factors, and unequal access to appropriate and quality services. However, very little is known about how to prevent suicide, particularly in the context of displacement, with no known programs or studies focused on preventing suicide for this population. The project will use Community-Based Systems Dynamics, a participatory and innovative approach, to plan for addressing the suicide burden among displaced persons and the complexities of suicide prevention in the context of displacement in Thailand.

  • Team members: Paul Bolton, Soshanna Fine, Emily Haroz, Tak Igusa, Catherine Lee, Paul Nestadt, Qi Wang, and Holly Willcox

"Prioritizing Gender Equity in Midwifery Care: Improving Maternal and Newborn Health Through Nurse-Midwifery Leadership Development in Tanzania"

Nurses and midwives are critical members of the health workforce in many low- and middle-income countries, providing essential maternal and newborn care to promote safe pregnancy and well-being of mother and child. In Tanzania, however, the low social status of (and minimal investment in) nurse-midwives prevents them from providing high-quality, lifesaving care. This project aims to harness a gender transformative leadership approach to address gender inequity in nurse-midwifery education leadership and competency development. Combining the strengths of several JHU schools and affiliates and Tanzanian partners, the group aims to ultimately support midwives to improve maternal and newborn health.

  • Team members: Myra Betron, Mario Macis, Julius Masanika, Rosemary Morgan, Eric Rice, William Smedick, and Karen Trister Grace

"Promoting Safe Passage from Adolescence to Adulthood for Native American Women"

Adolescence can be a time of growth and exploration, but it can also be a period of risk. Gender-based sexual, physical, and emotional violence and related risks—including sexually transmitted infection, substance abuse, and self-harm—disproportionally affect Native American adolescent females. Led by faculty at the Johns Hopkins University Center for American Indian Health, this project will adapt innovative mobile technologies and social media to promote emotional and physical well-being among adolescent Native American women in the White Mountain Apache and Sioux nations. The group aims to design an app that can be scaled to other nations and indigenous settings across the U.S. and around the world.

  • Team members: Kamila Alexander, Allison Barlow, Teresa Brockie, Jacquelyn Campbell, James Case, Sarah Connor, Zhaohao Fu, Charlotte Gaydos, Timian Godfrey, Novalene Goklish, Emily Haroz, Tak Igusa, Lauren Tingey, and Lawrence Wetsit

"Integrating Refugees into National Health Systems: Enhancing Equity and Strengthening Sustainable Health Services for All"

Conflict and crisis in the last decade have left thousands displaced from their homes and seeking refuge in camps or other shelters. However, despite significant health needs, refugees living outside of refugee camps typically face higher obstacles to health care compared to host nationals. A team of faculty will explore collaborations with colleagues in Jordan, Turkey, and Uganda to describe how health system institutional arrangements may be transformed to enhance access to sustainable, quality health services for both refugee and host populations, and diminish current inequities between these populations.

  • Team members: Sara Bennett, Meaghan Charlton, Nour Jaber Chehayeb, Fadi El Jardali, Will Cragin, Mohammed Darwish, Hussein Ismail, Marwa Mahmoud, Linda Matar, Sarah Parkinson, Paul Spiegel, and Alfred Tager

"The DART Study - The Development of an Antigen Rapid dipstick Test for Bedside Detection of Pediatric Tuberculosis"

A significant proportion of the more than 10.4 million people who had tuberculosis in 2015 are children. However, research into improved detection and treatment of pediatric TB has been neglected. This team proposes the development of a transformative technology to improve health outcomes in the affected pediatric population while revolutionizing the ability to detect pediatric tuberculosis with an easy to use, rapid point of care test with high sensitivity and specificity. The team will bring together expertise from public health and engineering to develop a nanoparticle-concentrated urinary-antigen diagnostic assay that can be used easily in resource-constrained areas to aid diagnosis of pediatric TB.

  • Team members: Amanda Debes, Robert Gilman, Lance Liotta, Alessandra Luchini, Peter Searson, Zach Silverstein, Hannah Steinberg, Jacqueline Yang, and Sameen Yusuf

"Creation of an Ecosystem for Equitable Innovation and Patient Care in Ophthalmology"

Vision loss represents an enormous health care burden that affects more than 940 million individuals globally, particularly in central and southeast Asia, which account for the largest percentage of the world's blind. Enabling eye care providers to obtain the best solutions for their populations will enhance global equity in eye care. Faculty from the Dana Center for Preventative Ophthalmology aims to collaborate with the Center for Bioengineering and Design and Aravid Eye Care System to develop a full landscape of the most significant needs in ophthalmology and build the foundation for a multidisciplinary, collaborative ecosystem for equitable innovation and patient care in ophthalmology.

  • Team members: David Friedman, Christine Diaz, Yueheng Dou, Ailon Haileyesus, Kunal Parikh, Benjamin Ostrander, Mohit Singhala, and Katherine Solley

"A Novel Screening Tool for Identifying Children at Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Feasibility to Estimate Prevalence in a Low-Resource Environment"

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, currently affects nearly 1 in 160 children worldwide. However, there are no prevalence estimates in Peru, as ASD is difficult to diagnose in resource-limited settings. Previous work by this group has been testing a novel, inexpensive, tablet-based eye tracking diagnostic tool for use in diagnosing children 18 months and older who are at risk for ASD. This project—which will bring together bioinformatics experts, epidemiologists, psychologists, and engineers—proposes using this device to identify children with ASD at a young age.

  • Team members: Andrea Carcelen, Li Ching-Lee, Nicholas Durr, Paola Donis Noriega, and Robert Gilman