Dr. Jillian Pintye named WGHA 2019 Pioneer Rising Leader

Congratulations to Dr. Jillian Pintye (Acting Assistant Professor, Global Health), who is the Washington Global Health Alliance’s (WGHA) 2019 Global Health Pioneers Rising Leader!

Dr. Pintye is focused on preventing HIV in pregnant women, who often don’t know their HIV risk and who may be more susceptible to getting infected during pregnancy. Dr. Pintye led groundbreaking research to show that PrEP, an HIV prevention medicine, is safe to use during pregnancy. She didn’t stop with epidemiologic analyses, though. Equipped with the research, Dr. Pintye then partnered with Dr. John Kinuthia and his team in Kenya to develop and implement an innovative PrEP program in nearly 40 clinics. The program builds on existing clinics, reaches existing patients, and to date has screened more than 20,000 women, with close to 4,000 of them initiating PrEP.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this award from WGHA,” said Dr. Pintye. “It is a privilege and joy to work within University of Washington [UW], the Department of Global Health [DGH], and Global WACh’s dedicated community of scientists that strive to improve the lives of women, adolescents, and children by advancing HIV prevention and care. I am grateful for the mission, values, and collaborations of UW, DGH, Global WACh, and our partners in Kenya.”

Read more about Dr. Pintye and the other winners of the WGHA Pioneers of Global Health Awards here.

New study will deliver social media-based counseling intervention to local peripartum adolescents

Dr. Keshet Ronen (Clinical Assistant Professor, Global Health) received a Technology and Adolescent Mental Wellness grant by the University of Wisconsin’s Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT).  The new study, entitled “Social media support for peripartum adolescents in Seattle”, takes lessons learned in Kenya using social media to facilitate peer support for youth and applies them here in Seattle.

Family Planning Decision Support teams publishes findings from Mobile WACh XY and receives funding for new Mobile WACh NEO trial

The Mobile WACh mHealth platform is the foundation of multiple studies under the Family Planning Decision Support Scientific Priority Area.   The system allows for both automated sending of tailored health-related SMS messages and two-way SMS interaction between participants and a health care provider in low- to middle-income countries.

The patient, Gertude, receives automated and personalized messages from a nurse through the Mobile WACh platform regarding her infant’s health. Source: Brenda Daroka (Kenyatta National Hospital), East African Science & Technology Commission Conference presentation

Originally designed to use SMS text messaging as a means to keep expectant mothers informed and involved in the health of themselves and their babies, the platform provides new and innovative opportunities to promote family planning at critical time points.  Family planning allows women to determine whether and when to have children, enhancing their educational and employment prospects.  This, in turn, improves their income levels, family stability, and mental well-being, while contributing to improved health outcomes for themselves and their children.

We’re pleased to share recent achievements contributed by the Mobile WACh platform.

Dr. Sarah Benki-Nugent and Kenya Healthy Brain Project receives EDGE Pilot Award for environmental health research

Environmental exposures in sub-Saharan Africa have received little attention despite data suggesting high levels of air pollutants and metals. Environmental pollutants are harmful to infants’ developing brains and may lead to poor neurocognitive outcomes into adolescence and adulthood.  Dr. Sarah Benki-Nugent (Department of Global Health) is leading the newly launched Kenya Healthy Brain Project, a multi-disciplinary maternal-child environmental health research collaborative housed in the University of Nairobi that aims to build local research capacity, with the idea of moving research into policy practice to reduce exposures that threaten cognitive potential in children.

Dr. Sylvia LaCourse awarded two R21 awards to investigate novel TB diagnostic methods in HIV-infected pregnant women and children

Tuberculosis (TB) contributes to substantial morbidity and mortality among HIV-infected peripartum women and their children.  We are pleased to announce that Dr. Sylvia LaCourse (Acting Assistant Professor, Medicine and Co-Director, HIV and Co-Infections Scientific Priority Area) received two National Institutes of Health-funded R21 awards to investigate novel TB diagnostic methods in HIV-infected children and TB-specific immune responses in pregnant women.

New NIH R01 will study effect of breast milk and gut microbiome to optimize growth in HIV-exposed uninfected children in Africa

Dr. Christine McGrath, PhD, MPH

Dr. Grace Aldrovandi, MD, CM









Congratulations to Principal Investigators, Dr. Christine McGrath (Assistant Professor, Global Health) and Dr. Grace Aldrovandi (Chief, Division of Infectious Disease at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital; Professor, Pediatrics, UCLA Geffen School of Medicine), who received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 award for a new study entitled, “Effects of Human Milk Oligosaccharides and Gut Microbiome on Growth and Morbidity in HIV-Exposed Uninfected Infants.”  The study team includes investigators from the Department of Global Health, Drs. Grace John-Stewart (Global WACh Director; Professor), Donna Denno (Professor), Judd Walson (Professor), Barbra Richardson (Adjunct Research Professor) and from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, Dr. Benson Singa (Research Scientist; Affiliated Assistant Professor, Global Health).

Despite the success in global health efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, there is a growing and often overlooked HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) population with a substantially higher risk of growth faltering, infectious morbidity, and mortality compared to HIV-unexposed uninfected (HUU) infants. The mechanisms responsible for poor growth and susceptibility to infection in HEU infants are unclear, but recent evidence suggests disturbances in the infant gut microbiome is a major cause.

Dr. Irene Njuguna awarded 2019 CFAR Mentored International Investigator Award to improve adolescent and young adult health in Kenya

Congratulations to Dr. Irene Njuguna (PhD Candidate in UW Epidemiology; Infectious Disease Researcher, Kenyatta National Hospital) who is the recipient of the 2019 UW/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) Mentored International Investigator Award!  Dr. Njuguna’s new two-year project entitled, “Causes and risk factors for death in HIV positive adolescents and youth in Kenya,” aims to fill critical gaps in understanding cause-specific and underlying contributing factors to adolescent and young adult (AYA) deaths.  Despite improvements in recent years to link HIV positive AYA to treatment and management to keep viral loads low, they remain at high risk of dying for reasons not well documented at many low-resource health facilities.

New SEEMS-Nutrition project seeks to measure costs and benefits of multi-sectoral food system interventions

The Strengthening Economic Evaluation for Multi-sectoral Strategies for Nutrition (SEEMS-Nutrition), a new three-year project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and directed by Dr. Carol Levin (Health Economist and Associate Professor, Global Health), aims to fill an information gap on costs, cost-effectiveness, and benefits of scaling up food system strategies in resource-constrained areas combating malnutrition.

In the spirit of multi-sectoral collaboration, the SEEMS-Nutrition project is working in partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Helen Keller International (HKI), and Results for Development (R4P).  Since launching in November 2018, the team is working hard to prepare the project for success. Their findings will allow program implementers and policymakers to make informed decisions about which nutrition interventions to prioritize to address healthy food systems, dietary intake, and improved nutritional status.  Such interventions can help improve maternal and child health outcomes by promoting optimal dietary and feeding practices during critical windows of time when nutritional needs are the greatest.

Can community pharmacies in Kenya improve early access to antenatal and HIV prevention care? Dr. Melissa Mugambi awarded NIH Diversity Award to explore feasibility

In setting with high HIV prevalence, early antenatal care (ANC) visits are vital to optimize HIV testing and prevention services to reduce maternal and pediatric mortality and morbidity.  Late ANC attendance limits timely identification and delivery of HIV prevention services including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among pregnant women at high risk for HIV infection.  To fill this gap, researchers are looking for ways to encourage pregnant women to seek ANC early and improve maternal and child health outcomes.  In Kenya, community pharmacies, also known as drug shops or chemists, are playing an increasingly important role as sources of over-the-counter sexual and reproductive health products, including urine pregnancy tests and HIV self-testing kits. These pharmacies offer important and under-utilized access points to ANC and HIV prevention care for women and have the potential to inform a new innovative PrEP delivery model.

Dr. Melissa Mugambi (Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health, Implementation Science Program) received a National Institutes for Health (NIH) Diversity Supplement Award to lead a study on the feasibility of engaging community pharmacy providers in the distribution of pregnancy tests and subsequent referral of pregnant women to ANC, in order to promote early access to ANC and PrEP.

Does the message matter? UW Royalty Research Fund awarded to characterize effect of Mobile WACh’s SMS content and participant engagement and care seeking outcomes

Dr. Jennifer Unger, MD, MPH

Dr. Keshet Ronen, PhD











As more households in low-income countries own a mobile phone than have access to electricity or adequate sanitation, health care providers are progressively utilizing mobile health (mHealth) platform approaches to provide guidance and support to patients between clinic visits.  Evidence shows mobile short message service (SMS) programs improve HIV and maternal-child health outcomes, but there is less understanding about the types of messages that engage recipients and the mechanisms that lead to changes in health behavior.  We are pleased to announce that Drs. Jennifer Unger (Assistant Professor, OB/GYN and Global Health) and Keshet Ronen (Clinical Assistant Professor, Global Health) are the principal investigator and co-investigator, respectively, of a UW Royalty Research Fund award to analyze participant messages, and yield an understanding of how recipients use these systems and how care seeking is impacted by SMS conversations.