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Global Health Projects

The Dornsife School of Public Health aims to excel in community and civically engaged global public health by creating and nurturing mutually beneficial and equitable partnerships with communities and organizations that focus on improving population health, eliminating health disparities and promoting health as a human right.

Below are a few of the current public health challenges that our faculty, students, and staff are studying and addressing around the globe.

Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL), Urban Health in Latin America (2017-2022)

Led by Ana Diez Roux, Dean of the Dornsife School of Public Health, Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) or Urban Health in Latin America, is a five-year project launched in April 2017. The Dornsife School of Public Health and its partners in Latin America and the United States are working together to study how urban environments and urban policies impact the health of city residents throughout Latin America.

The project's findings are informing policies and interventions to create healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable cities worldwide.

SALURBAL is funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of its Our Planet, Our Health initiative, which focuses on research examining the connections between the environment and human health. The SALURBAL Project is the main activity of the Urban Health Network for Latin America and the Caribbean. Learn more about the SALURBAL project.

For more information, please contact: salurbal@drexel.edu.

Mid-term Assessment of Programs to Remove Human Rights-related Barriers to HIV and TB Services (2019-2021)

In 2017, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria began an initiative to scale-up programs to remove human rights-related barriers to access HIV and TB services in 20 countries. These programs include support to: reduce stigma and discrimination; train health care providers on human rights and medical ethics; sensitize lawmakers and law enforcement agents; promote legal literacy and legal services; and monitor and reform relevant laws, regulations and policies.

At the mid-point of this five-year initiative, the DSPH is leading a team of researchers, working with local partners, to assess progress and challenges in each of the 20 countries participating in the initiative. For more information on human rights visit the Global Fund.

Faculty leads: Joe AmonNina Sun

Built Environment, Pedestrian Injuries and Deep Learning (BEPIDL) Study (2020-2025)

Road traffic injuries are a major contributor to the burden of disease globally with nearly 1.3 million deaths globally and as many as 50 million injured annually with pedestrians and cyclists in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) among the most affected.

Road infrastructure of the built environment (e.g., sidewalks), neighborhood design (e.g., street connectivity) and urban development (e.g., urban sprawl) are key determinants of the risk of pedestrian injuries. In LMICs, however, there is a paucity of georeferenced data on the built environment that has made examining built environment factors more difficult.

Recent advances in computer vision and image analysis combined with Big Data of publicly available, georeferenced, images of roads worldwide (e.g., Google Street View, GSV) has the potential to help overcome the paucity of built environment data more efficiently than traditional methods.

This career development award from the Fogarty International Center is focusing on:

  1. Developing neural networks to create a database of built environment features of the road infrastructure from image data and to create neighborhood typologies from those features
  2. Assessing the association between neighborhood-level built environment features and typologies and pedestrian collisions and fatalities and road safety perceptions
  3. Examining the association of neighborhood social environment characteristics with pedestrian collision and fatalities, perceptions, and BE features and typologies

Faculty leads: Alex Quistberg, Gina LovasiAna Diez Roux

Our Health Matters: Indian Trans Men and Transmasculine Health Study (2021-2023)

Our Health Matters: Indian Trans Men and Transmasculine Health Study is a community-based participatory, mixed-methods study investigating the social determinants of mental health and access to healthcare among trans men and transmasculine persons in India.

DSPH faculty Ayden Scheim is leading this NIH/NIMH-funded project (R21MH125263) in collaboration with Indian transmasculine community leaders and organizations and researchers from Canada, India, and the U.S.

Faculty lead: Ayden Scheim

African Institution Capacity Strengthening Initiative (2019 – 2021)

The African Institution Capacity Strengthening (AICS) initiative seeks to develop a framework for mobilizing and deploying resourcing and mentoring strategies to strengthen the capabilities and throughput of Africa's research institutions in conceiving and conducting cutting-edge research for informed policy-making and development planning in Africa.

Working with various partners, the initiative will facilitate funding, training, equipping, and mentoring of African institutions to conduct responsive research and to accelerate the translation of important insights and inventions into new and improved policies, practices, and products. Such outputs will then be deployed to enhance government and institutional efficiencies, accelerate socio-economic development in Africa, promote environmental sustainability, and ultimately improve the well-being of Africans.

AICS activities are funded by grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation and builds on initial work on Transforming Institutional Landscape for Research in Africa.

Faculty lead: Alex Ezeh

CD4 Capacity Building on Changing Social Norms Supporting Child Marriage in Kyrgyzstan (2019-2021)

In early 2020, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) created the Spotlight Initiative, a three-year program to address all forms of violence and harmful practices against women and girls. The Spotlight Initiative is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its efforts to achieve gender equality and women's empowerment. The initiative launched in several countries, including Kyrgyzstan, and is built upon six pillars developed after an extensive global theory of change exercise: Policies and Legislation; Institutions; Prevention; Services; Data; and Women's movement and civil society.

The current project fits within the third pillar of prevention, within which UN agencies aim to change social norms, attitudes, and behaviors rooted in gender-based violence and harmful practices at the community and individual levels.

In order to fulfill this goal, a research team from the DSPH is collaborating with UNICEF and partner organizations to:

  • Conduct a qualitative participatory needs assessment with adolescents
  • Design and implement a capacity-building program to address social norms supporting child marriage in the pilot communities (Osh and Chui provinces of Kyrgyzstan)
  • Provide ongoing support to finalize the design, implementation, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of proposed interventions

Team members: Suruchi Sood, Farren Rodrigues, Sarah Wasser, Abigail Knouse

Trainings of Trainers (ToT) on Interpersonal Communication for Immunization and Development of a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework to Measure Changes in the Quality of Service Provider – Caregiver Interaction, Europe and Central Asia (2019-2021)

In 2019, as part of a five-year strategic plan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a list of the top ten threats to global health. Vaccine hesitancy, “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines,” was among these issues. To this end—and citing poor quality of interaction between health care providers and caregivers as a reason for caregivers delaying, refusing, or not fully completing childhood vaccination—UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office (ECARO) has created a training package on interpersonal communication (IPC) for immunization.

Many UNICEF country offices in the ECARO region are eager to use the training package. The DSPH team is conducting two bilingual and one English language training of trainers (ToT) workshops. The workshops include governmental and non-governmental training experts, so they can directly train frontline health care providers in their respective countries.

DSPH researchers are also partners with UNICEF Kazakhstan to assist with disseminating UNICEF ECARO’s previous work on strengthening health professionals’ interpersonal skills related to immunizations. As part of the regional ECARO project, Drexel is also creating and validating a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework to measure and track changes in vaccine uptake resulting from the increased capacity of health providers to effectively communicate with caregivers about immunizations.

Team members: Suruchi Sood, Farren Rodrigues, Sarah Wasser, Michael Hauer, Suzanne Block, Abigail Knouse, Armonnie Pierre-Jaques

Strengthening Monitoring and Evaluation of the “Sudan Free of FGM+” and the Joint Program on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Sudan for Social Norms Change (2021-2022)

In December 2016, the global UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program on FGM started a consultative process to develop a rigorous monitoring and evaluation framework to link communication approaches to the changes observed in social norms around FGM.

The ACT Framework, a macro-level M&E framework, has been designed previously by the Drexel research team to be adaptable while still providing standardization around social norms measurement.

The FGM and child marriage programs in Sudan are evolving; therefore, DSPH will lead a team of researchers and local partners to examine ways in which the ACT framework can be integrated within the Sudan Country programs. The Drexel team will conduct a 5-day capacity-building workshop for local partners to help them implement the integration of ACT indicators and tools into existing and planned activities. They will also help with the analysis and dissemination of data and help with building a sustainable monitoring framework by examining the relationship between program implementation and subsequent individual and social change.

Team members: Suruchi Sood, Girija Kaimal, Sarah Stevens, Farren Rodrigues, Rachael Haile Selasse, Suzanne Block, Abigail Knouse

Project Migrante: An Observatory of Migrant Health on the México-U.S. Border (2012, currently in phase 3: 2019-2024)

Mexican migrants traveling across the U.S.-Mexico border region represent a large, highly mobile, and socially vulnerable subset of Mexican nationals. Over the past 9 years, we have adopted a unique migration framework and methodological approach to characterize disease burden, health behaviors, and exposure to protective and risk factors among these migrants, examining two health areas in particular: HIV risk and access to health care.

Findings from previous phases of the project have led the Mexican Secretariat of Health to establish free prevention clinics at five deportation reception stations along the Mexican border.

Currently, we are surveying migrants in three border cities to estimate infectious and chronic disease prevalence and assess mental health risk among this population.

This project consolidates a binational observatory at the Mexico-U.S. border that will become an important resource for migrant health scholars and will inform policy and programmatic responses to increase access to health care and improve the health status of migrants in sending, transit, and receiving communities.

For more information on the Observatory, please visit HIV Risk and Access to Healthcare Among Mexican Migrants: A Survey of Migrant Flows on the Mexico-US Border.

Team members: Ana Martínez-Donate, Catalina Correa-Salazar, Leah Bakely

Pilot Intervention Study: Re-enrolling Young South African Mothers in School as a Social Vaccine against HIV Transmission (2016-2018)

Funded by the US State Department as part of the DREAMS initiative, the intervention—Mentoring Adolescent Mothers at School (MAMAS)—was co-developed by youth and was designed to support adolescent mothers’ return to school postpartum to reduce their HIV risk.

Increasing adolescent girls’ access to and retention in school is a global priority, based in part on the recognition that education is a social determinant of health.

Adolescent mothers who participated in MAMAS received mentoring from young women in their twenties who themselves had given birth as a teenager and returned to school. Mentors provided ongoing psychosocial support to teen mothers through group based mentoring sessions delivered during the first six months after childbirth.

While Dr. Groves and her colleagues identified several implementation challenges during the pilot intervention study, they also found that MAMAS was acceptable to participants and that it showed promise in facilitating young mothers’ return to school. Specifically, nearly three quarters of all young women in the study returned to school by six months postpartum, and adolescent mothers who attended one or more intervention sessions were significantly more likely to return postpartum than those who attended zero sessions.

Given that adolescent mothers are at heightened risk of HIV acquisition, interventions such as MAMAS are vital to mitigating their risk and thus ensuring their health and the health of their newborn.

Faculty lead: Ali Groves

Developing Guidance for Ministries of Health on Human Rights and Digital Health Technologies (2020)

Supporting the work of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and building on the United Nations Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy on Digital Health (pdf), DSPH experts developed a guidance document for Ministries of Health to assess the opportunities and potential harms of digital technologies for health.

The guidance aims to provide ethical considerations, as well as the legal and policy frameworks necessary to safeguard human rights and bridge the digital divide. It involved consultations with global health and digital tech experts from around the world. 

The project also resulted in a review of the human rights applicable to digital technologies.

Faculty leads: Joe AmonNina Sun

C’est La Vie Health Communications Evaluation (2018-2020)

From 2018-2020, under the leadership of Dr. Philip Massey, researchers from Drexel University evaluated a television serial drama that produced and shared content on various social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. The series, C’est La Vie! addressed topics including sexual and reproductive health, maternal child health, and also cancer prevention and screening, all through the lens of gender equity and social justice.

Evaluation findings demonstrated that C’est la Vie! had the power to change social norms related to health. When audiences connected with the story, they were more likely to talk about it with someone, more likely to indicate their perceptions changed, and more likely to have knowledge gain and pro-health behaviors. The more engaged audiences were with the storylines and content, the more positive changes – the power of entertainment, education, and digital content. For more information, check out C’est La Vie!.

Faculty lead: Philip Massey


To learn more about our faculty's research grants visit Grants and Announcements in the Research section.