News Global Health Center

Global Health Seed Funding awarded to five “highly competitive” projects

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health

In a collaboration that will amplify Washington University’s “global perspective” (one of the guiding principles of the university’s “Here and Next” Strategic Plan), the Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health and Department of Medicine, WashU’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy and the Africa Initiative have awarded global health seed funding to five research projects.

The key objective of the Global Health Seed Funding effort was to help stimulate new global health research collaborations, strengthen existing partnerships and projects, and help faculty become more competitive for larger, extramural grant opportunities. Each team of applicants included at least one faculty member from Washington University in St. Louis and one faculty member from a McDonnell Academy partner institution.

“This year’s application cycle was highly competitive, because of the large number of proposals we received and their overall quality,” said Mark Huffman, MD, MPH, co-director of the Global Health Center. “This round of applicants was particularly strong, and we were able to fund five proposals of up to $25,000 each,” added Center Director, Victor G. Davila-Roman, MD. “The Global Health Seed Funding effort also helps illuminate the university’s goal of “being a community of people driven to meet the world’s challenges.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the Global Health Center for this round of seed funding, which builds on the success of the McDonnell Academy’s global seed grant initiatives. Over the last three years, we have expanded our efforts to support 67 new projects worldwide. These international collaborations are already producing substantial research outcomes aligned with “Here & Next”, resulting in significant external funding and new publications,” said Vijay Ramani, vice provost for graduate education and international affairs and Laura Benoist, director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

The awardees listed below will present their research findings at the next McDonnell Academy International Symposium.

Project: Construction of Artificial Intelligence Models to Discriminate Crohn’s Disease from Gastrointestinal Tuberculosis in South Asia

Primary Investigator: Parakkal Deepak, MBBS, MS, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

McDonnell Academy Partner:  Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

Summary: The discrimination of gastrointestinal tuberculosis and Crohn’s disease is one of the most difficult clinical conundrums for the gastroenterologists in South Asian region where tuberculosis is endemic. Often, a therapeutic trial of antitubercular therapy is needed when the diagnosis remains unclear even after extensive workup. This project will use artificial intelligence-based techniques for discriminating gastrointestinal tuberculosis and Crohn’s disease using captured colonoscopy images. The performance of these artificial intelligence-based methods will be tested and compared with previously established algorithms.


Project: Implementation of a Handshake Stewardship Intervention to Address Perioperative Antibiotic Use at the University of Ghana Medical Center

Primary Investigator: Caline Mattar, MD & George Kyei, MBChB, PhD, Washington University  School of Medicine in St. Louis

McDonnell Academy Partner: University of Ghana

Summary: Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise globally with the largest burden in low- and middle-income countries. Ghana, the second most populous country in West Africa, does not have a single organized antimicrobial stewardship program to guide antibiotic use in hospitals. This study has identified prolonged antibiotic use in surgical procedures beyond the duration recommended by the World Health Organization, which is driving antibiotic overuse at the University of Ghana Medical Center. The project will implement and compare two interventions targeting perioperative antibiotics at the University of Ghana Medical Center. Those include: a) educational module, followed by b) handshake stewardship (person-to-person counseling on appropriate and inappropriate antibiotic use). Interventions effectiveness will be assessed along with the effect on antibiotic consumption.


Project: Pilot Study to Examine the Feasibility and Acceptability of a Combination Intervention to Address HIV Risk and Treatment Adherence and Mental Health Outcomes among Refugee Youth Living with HIV in Uganda

Primary Investigator: Proscovia Nabunya, MSW, PhD & Nhial Tutlam, PhD, Brown School

McDonnell Academy Partner: Makerere University

Summary: As of 2022, Uganda was ranked third among refugee hosting countries in the world; hosting over 1.5 million refugees from multiple neighboring countries. The mental health impact of trauma on refugees although well documented, focuses on a broad spectrum of mental disorders. Many mental health challenges among refugees may be related to daily stressors emanating from lack of economic security. Building on established collaboration between Makerere University and WashU Brown School scholars, this project will test whether a combination of youth readiness plus economic empowerment components would be feasible and acceptable to address mental health challenges among refugee youth living with HIV.


Project: Developing a Protocol for Virtual Delivery of a Transdiagnostic Mental Health Intervention among Afghan Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Turkey

Primary Investigator: Mitra Naseh, PhD, Brown School

McDonnell Academy Partner: Boğaziçi University

Summary: The unplanned and abrupt nature of forced displacement together with an array of traumatic experiences faced by refugees and asylum seekers when fleeing their country of origin put them at a higher risk of mental health problems. Until they find a durable solution, refugees and asylum seekers often live for years with limited access to mental health care. Using a community-informed research method, this project will design and implement the virtual delivery of an evidence-based and trans-diagnostic mental health program for Afghans in Turkey, one of the largest groups of refugees and asylum seekers in the world. The protocol of this study could then be adapted and used among other groups of refugees.


Project: Social Determinants of Health and Policy Design: Child Development Accounts and Child Health in Asia

Primary Investigator: Michael Sherraden, PhD, Brown School

McDonnell Academy Partners: National Taiwan University, Peking University 

Summary: Research shows that financial resources and incentives have positive impacts on health behaviors, healthcare, and health outcomes. However, limited research is available on designing a health policy structure to deliver and grow financial resources and incentives for all children. This study aims to examine Child Development Accounts as a policy structure in Singapore, Taiwan, and Mainland China to deliver, grow, and sustain financial resources designated for child health. Child Development Accounts are savings and investment accounts that encourage society, communities, and families to build assets for children’s long-term development and health. Nearly 20 million children worldwide have built financial resources in Child Development Accounts.