Breakfast with WACh with Dr. Christy McKinney

Christy McKinney PhD, MPH just joined Global WACh as part of our lecture series with an exciting presentation on The NIFTY™ Cup: A Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology for Infants who have Difficulty Breastfeeding in Low-Resource Settings.

McKinney_Christy_PhotoDr. McKinney is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Oral Health Sciences and the Academic Research Coach for the Division of Internal Medicine at the University of Washington. She received her MPH from Tulane University in 2002 and her PhD from the University of Washington in 2006, both in epidemiology. She is the recipient of an NIH Institute for Translational Health Sciences KL2 career development award, which she completed in 2014.

Her research areas include the etiology of oral clefts, feeding infants with breastfeeding difficulties, bisphenol A in dental materials, and the application of research methods in clinical contexts. She is the recipient of an NIH R01 to conduct a prospective cohort study to examine the extent to which children are exposed to bisphenol A during dental treatment. She is co-Principal Investigator of a recently awarded Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenges grant award that involves evaluating the Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology (NIFTY™) cup in Ethiopia. In her role as Academic Research Coach she provides research methods and implementation guidance to over 30 faculty and 30 different research projects.

You can view her entire presentation below.

Breakfast with WACh with Dr. Assaye Nigussie

For this Breakfast with WACh lecture we welcomed Dr. Assaye Kassie Nigussie, Deputy Director, Country Implementation, Newborn & Child Health at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

FullSizeRenderDr. Nigussie, an Ethiopian national, is a Medical Doctor and a qualified Pediatrician from Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. Dr. Nigussie has over 20 years of experience in Pediatric Medicine and Neonatology, initially as a clinical instructor, practicing physician and Newborn and Child health researcher, and later as program manager for health programs focusing on Maternal, Neonatal, Child health and health systems. He brings both specific newborn expertise and a wealth of program implementation experiences across the MNCH continuum. He is currently working at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the Deputy Director of Country Implementation on the MNCH team.

Below, you can view Dr. Nigussie’s entire presentation on Evidence-Based Strategy Planning for MNCH: Country Experience.


Small Change Awards: Spotlight on Homa Bay

Small changes can make a big difference.  The Global WACh Small Change Awards are given to improve the patient experience in low and middle income countries by improving clinical care, patient satisfaction, workforce empowerment, and health service delivery for programs befitting the health of women, adolescents and children. We recently reviewed several highly inventive applications and ultimately funded three outstanding proposals. Among our award recipients was Dr. Liru of the Homa Bay Hospital in Homa Bay, Kenya.

Homa Bay has one of the worst child mortality rates in Kenya, primarily caused by respiratory infections, malaria, diarrhea and neonatal conditions. Dr. Liru Meshack, a pediatrician at Homa Bay, identified inadequate respiratory support equipment as a barrier to reducing inpatient case fatality at the hospital.  Dr. Liru requested new respiratory equipment that could save the lives of critically-ill children and adolescents at the hospital.

Global WACh is very excited to partner with Homa Bay hopsital through our Small Change Awards.  Here is a video showing the need for new equipment and a heartfelt thank you from our partners in Kenya.

The Small Change Awards are supported through private donations from people like you. You can make a gift on our website’s Small Change Award page or give through the UW
Combined Fund Drive that supports more than 5,000 nonprofits in the UWCFD campaign (Charity 1481904).

Breakfast With WACh with Simon Hay

Last Thursday, Global WACh was excited to welcome Simon Hay of the Institute for Health metrics and Evaluation as part of our Breakfast with WACh lecture series. He did an excellent presentation on Global Mapping of Infectious Disease.

You can view the entire presentation below.


haySimon Hay is a Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington and Director of Geospatial Science at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). His career has focused on spatial and temporal aspects of infectious disease epidemiology to support the more rational implementation of disease control and intervention strategies. His best known work is focused on accurately defining human populations at risk of malaria and its burden at global, regional and national scales through the co-founding of the Malaria Atlas Project. He now leads an international collaboration of researchers, from a wide variety of academic disciplines, with the objective of improving the outputs and outcomes of infectious disease cartography.


Spotlight on Global WACh Seed Grant Recipient Deepa Rao

We took a few moments to catch up with Dr. Deepa Rao, an Associate Professor in the Department of Global Health and recipient of a Global WACh integrated health seed grant.  Dr. Rao’s grant funding was awarded to explore the impact of domestic violence and depressive symptoms on preterm birth in South India.  India has a very high domestic violence rate in addition to having the highest number of maternal deaths, preterm birth, and under 5 mortality in the world.  Global WACh viewed this proposal as an opportunity to understand more about the relationship between the two.

“We need to look at the person holistically and realize a mother’s mental health is connected to their baby’s health and it’s not a solely biological process. In my training I’ve always seen the social, interpersonal connected to the biological.”

Dr. Rao was awarded $25,000 to estimate the prevalence of depressive and PTSD symptoms in pregnant women in South India and examine the effects of these symptoms on birth outcomes.  Dr. Rao’s team also conducted interviews with key informants to gather information on how therapeutic techniques could be adapted to be culturally relevant.

Deepa Rao

The study was conducted at two different hospitals, and involved 150 Indian women over the age of 18 who were in their second or third trimester of pregnancy. All of the women were married, had some education, and about nine percent were employed outside of the home. Twenty-one percent of them reported clinically significant depressive symptoms and PTSD.

Her findings, to be published in an upcoming paper entitled The Impact of Domestic Violence and Depressive Symptoms on Preterm Birth in South India, showed that both psychological abuse and clinically significant depressive symptoms were associated with preterm birth. In addition, her team found that maternal depressive symptoms and experience of psychological abuse were strongly associated with each other. During the study, female research assistants asked questions about home situations that could shed light on whether or not the women had suffered abuse. Several women had.

Dr. Rao points out that current policy initiatives focus predominantly on physical abuse, and psychological abuse may be overlooked through these initiatives. She emphasized the need for future research to focus on understanding the psychosocial causes of preterm birth to better target interventions and improve maternal child health in limited resource settings.

New Lecture Series -Breakfast with WACh with guest Dr. Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli

Please join Global WACh as we welcome Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli MBBS, MSc of the World Health Organization as part of our new Breakfast with WACh lecture series.

chandramouliDr. Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli is an expert in adolescent sexual and reproductive health. He has worked for the World Health Organization in Geneva since 1993. His experience in generating knowledge and taking knowledge to action is global in scope and spans over 25 years.  A key area of his work is research on effective ways of providing sexuality education in different social, cultural and economic contexts, and then using these research findings to strengthen sexuality education programs in low and middle income countries.


October 8th 9-10 AM University of Washington, South Campus Center Room 354

Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Why is there so much discomfort about it?  What are the implications for public health and health care professionals?

For more information please see this flyer.

For the full filmed presentation, please visit this link.


Our Lifecycle Approach to Research

At Global WACh our mission is to make scientific discoveries, cultivate leaders, and bridge disciplines to advance the tightly connected health of women, adolescents, and children. Global WACh approaches research, activities, and programs through a “lifecycle lens” that views target populations as interconnected instead of independent groups.

What exactly do we mean by “lifecycle lens?”  We sat down with Global WACh Director, Grace John-Stewart, MD, PhD, MPH to explain what it is and why it is important in the global health context.

Historically, global health research focused on women, adolescents, and children separately, or examined the maternal-child relationship. Within the last decade, however, adolescents have emerged as a critical population to understand and engage in order to improve health worldwide.  With the proliferation of adolescent health research and programs, Global WACh uses a lifecycle lens in which research explores potential impact and benefits throughout the lifecycle, from pregnancy, to neonate, to child, to adolescent, to next generation reproductive health.


Dr. John-Stewart’s research career in mother-to-child HIV transmission involved linking pediatricians with obstetricians and caring for mothers and infants together, with studies to optimize outcomes in both. The questions surrounding how to prevent women and children from getting HIV led to recognizing adolescence as a critical area on which to focus. Adolescents in the pre-reproductive phase need to be incorporated into the lifecycle model – prevention and treatment of children can improve adolescent health and adolescent engagement can improve health in their later life and in the next generation.


Grace John-Stewart MD, PhD Global WACh Center Director

“If we do something for women, could we have benefits for them that also benefit their children? If we do something for children, are there ways in which we benefit them moving into adolescence and later life? We’re trying to think about it together.”


Global WACh has three main core focuses of research: Infectious Diseases, Healthy Growth and Development, and Family Planning. All of these areas have elements that directly relate to the lifecycle. For example, healthy, planned pregnancies lead to healthy babies who, when provided with adequate infant nutrition and other interventions, can experience better health outcomes later in life.

Dr. John-Stewart acknowledges it is a challenge incorporate all three populations into any one study, but Global WACh wants researchers to think about how their work in any one of these populations could be linked to the other populations as they develop and implement studies.

“You have to understand the implications of actions in one area for the other, and if you can articulate that it’s good. If you’re doing a study on maternal depression, for example, not every time do you have to measure the child outcomes, but you may speculate or infer how this could benefit both the mother and child.”

You can read more about Global WACh’s mission, vision, and the work that we do here.



WACh Research Racks Up Awards at IAS Conference

In late July, Global WACh sent several team members to Vancouver for the 8th Annual IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis Treatment and Prevention. Our researchers presented posters highlighting woman, adolescent, and child health and Kristjana Asbjornstottir, Irene Njuguna, and Keshet Ronen took home awards recognizing their excellent work!

Kristjana received the The IAS/ANRS Lange-Van Tongeren Prize for Young Investigators for her project Immune Activation ped HIV.

Kristjana with Dr. Beyrer from Johns Hopkins and Dr. Delfraissy from ANRS France who presented her with the award
Kristjana with Dr. Beyrer from Johns Hopkins and Dr. Delfraissy from ANRS France who presented her with the award

Kristjana shared her thoughts about winning this prestigious award saying:

Giving a talk at IAS was an incredible opportunity in itself, and having our work recognized through the Young Investigator award on top of that is an enormous honor. I think it highlights the particular attention that was paid to pediatric research at the conference this year. Lots of UW research was featured in various tracks and sessions.

Irene Njuguna was the recipient of the CIPHER Award (Collaborative Initiative for Paediatric HIV Education and Research) which is granted to provide funding for research that addresses priority gaps in pediatric HIV. Without treatment, 50% of HIV infected children will die by the age of two so early diagnosis and treatment is crucial.

The Financial Incentives to increase HIV testing in children (FIT) study that Irene and the team have been working with wants to test to see if small financial incentives will increase HIV testing for children of HIV infected adults who are already in care.

This award is a result of hard work from the team, and I feel honored to be part of this team. This would not be possible without the excellent mentorship from Grace John-Stewart, Jennifer Slyker and Anjuli Wagner.

All of our Global WACh members gave poster presentations for the conference, and Keshet Ronen won an award for Best Poster for her research on Lower ANC Attendance and PMTCT Uptake in Adolescent versus Adult Pregnant Women in Kenya.


Keshet Ronen and her award winning poster

Let’s hear it for our award winning Global WACh team!


Small Changes With Big Impact – Announcing the Global WACh Small Change Awards


The University of Washington Center for Integrated Health of Women, Children and Adolescents (Global WACh) aims to contribute to scientific discoveries, develop and nurture future leaders in science and foster collaborative approaches to improving the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.

As part of these commitments, Global WACh offers a Resource Awards to support efforts to improve the patient experience in LMIC by improving clinical care, patient satisfaction, workforce empowerment, and health service delivery for programs benefitting the health of women, adolescents and children.

For more information, and to download the current RFA, please visit our Small Change Awards page.

We’re looking forward to receiving your proposals!

Global WACh at IAS 2015


UW Global Health and Global WACh will be attending the 8th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis Treatment & Prevention July 19th – 22nd, and we’re there in full force. Below are the oral presentations you don’t want to miss!

Monday at 11:00am  Kristjana Asbjornsdottir will present  Immune activation and pediatric HIV during the Growing up on ART session (Ballroom B)

Wednesday at 11:00am Anjuli Wagner will present Pediatric HIV testing during the Children and Adolescents Living with HIV session (Room 211-214)

Wednesday at 11:00am Keshet Ronen will present Adolescent PMTCT engagement during the Children and Adolescents Living with HIV session (Room 211-214)

Global Health and Global WACh team members will also be at the poster presentations, and we even have a few award winners in the bunch! Kristjana Asbjornsdottir will be honored with the IAS Young Investigator Award, Irene Njuguna will receive a CIPHER Award, Keshet Ronen will be getting a Best Poster award for her Pediatric IAS Meeting poster. Congratulations to all of them!

Click here for the full Global WACh IAS schedule and here for more information about IAS 2015.