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.

Global WACh research assistant, Claire Gwayi-Chore, receives UW foreign language fellowship to build French language proficiency in implementation science research

Claire Gwayi-Chore, PhD student in Global Health Implementation Science and an esteemed Global WACh research assistant, is a recipient of the 2019-2020 UW Canadian Studies Center’s Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship to support critical French language training in combination with area studies courses.

Her fellowship will help initiate an independent research project evaluating systemic barriers and facilitators to primary health care access by francophone Africans within Canada’s Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which provides health care coverage to all asylum-seeking refugees.  The lack of evidence surrounding the understanding of these systemic barriers that refugees experience is a major threat to the health of this vulnerable population.  As an immigrant from Kenya, this issue is of personal importance to Claire, and her choice of study stems from her interest with the current agenda set forth by Canada’s administration that prioritizes the health and safety of all refugees entering the country.

“Learning a new language has really expanded the scope of my work,” says Claire, “My global health career is centered around ensuring that Ministries of Health, their in-country technical partners, and communities feel empowered and included in defining the priorities for designing and implementing public health research and practice.  Therefore, learning French brings me closer to my francophone colleagues and communities by being able to discuss and address these issues collaboratively.”

As a Global WACh research assistant, Claire lends nearly ten years of experience implementing large-scale school- and community-based interventions within impact evaluation settings in low- and middle-income countries to support implementation science research within the DeWorm3 Project with trial sites in Benin, India, and Malawi.  Her Beninese colleagues inspired her to learn French after observing the impact of the language barrier on the study’s implementation.

After completing the rigorous Elementary French three-course series at UW this year, Claire now has a limited working proficiency of the language. She is traveling to Benin this summer after receiving the Department of Global Health’s 2019-2020 GO Health Fellowship and the 2019 African Studies Ottenberg-Winans Fellowship to conduct an independent research project nested within DeWorm3 and to continue building her language proficiency. Her FLAS Fellowship will initiate next academic year to support her continuation to the Intermediate French series, after which she hopes to start her independent research on IHFP.

This research reflects Claire’s career goals of using implementation science to provide community-driven evidence to shape effective public health policy and practice.  For Claire, learning French has transformed how she envisions advancing her career; she has extended her goals to include collaborations with public health researchers and implementers who work in, with or on behalf of francophone citizens across the globe.

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.

Global WACh’s Next Big Thing 2019: Putting Women at the Center of Family Planning Innovations

On Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 at the UW Husky Union Building Lyceum, Global WACh hosted its annual “Next Big Thing” year-end celebration to highlight the achievements of the Center over the past year in research, training, and service. This year’s theme was “Putting Women at the Center of Family Planning Innovations.”  Drs. Alison Drake and Jennifer Unger, co-directors of Global WACh’s Family Planning Decision Support Scientific Priority Area, invited collaborators across the Departments of Global Health, Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN), and Epidemiology to showcase their emerging expertise and partnerships in family planning efforts and advancements.  Dr. Christine Dehlendorf of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), gave the keynote address on advocating for providers to move towards person-centered and justice-informed family planning care to better support women’s contraceptive needs and choices.

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.

DeWorm3 Project launches deworming activities at trial sites to improve nutrition and health

Over 1.5 billion people, including 835 million children, in the world’s poorest communities, are infected with soil-transmitted helminths (STH), commonly known as intestinal worms, and are in need of deworming medications.  A single deworming pill is a safe and effective solution to combat worm infections that interfere with the body’s nutritional intake and impair developmental growth, especially in children.  Periodic mass deworming protects a community by removing or reducing the worm burden of infected community members, thereby decreasing the risk of new individuals becoming infected.  In 2016, Dr. Judd Walson (Department of Global Health), in collaboration with the Natural History Museum London and the University of Washington, launched the DeWorm3 Project to test the feasibility of interrupting transmission of STH using intensified mass drug administration strategies.  DeWorm3 is a cluster randomized trial comparing community-wide deworming efforts of individuals of all ages to standard-of-care deworming of school-age children at schools.  Findings from the clinical trial and accompanying implementation science research can support the development of STH program guidelines and innovative delivery strategies.  Deworming activities launched in 2018 in trial sites in Benin, India, and Malawi.