News Global Health Center Chronic Disease

Global Research Site Award to project on malnutrition in Haiti

Lora Iannotti, PhD, Associate Professor at the Brown School received funding to establish a Global Research Site in Haiti to work on malnutrition. “The goal of this award from the Global Health Center is to deepen already existing links in a resource-poor settings, in order to increase the involvement of Washington University faculty and students in a setting that can strengthen interdisciplinary education and research,” said William G. Powderly, MD, director of the Institute for Public Health. He added, “The collaboration with Université Publique du Nord au Cap-Haïtien (UPNCH) is particularly important as it will allow us to also contribute to capacity development in Haiti.”

Dr. Iannotti will collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of faculty:

From the Brown School:

  • Patricia Kohl, PhD, MSW
  • Carolyn Lesorogol, PhD
  • Zorimar Rivera-Núñez, PhD, MS

From the Medical School:

  • Sarah Brown, PhD
  • Rupa Patel, MD, MPH, DTM&H
  • Will Ross, MD

And, colleagues from the partner institution UPNCH:

  • Sherlie Jean Louis Dulience, RN
  • Patrick Saintilus, PhD, MA
  • Fénol Métellus, PhD
  • Gédéon Gelin, MD, MSc
  • Narcisse Fièvre, PhD

Four trainees from both institutions will work together on this project:

  • Haley Becker and Kenneth MacNeal, both from Washington University
  • Jeanyte Marie Kadjina Joseph and Samson Alexis, both from UPNCH.

Haiti offers the ideal site for developing research to test transdisciplinary strategies at the intersection of under- and over-nutrition. Despite the underlying common risk factor of poor diet quality, the two conditions are rarely simultaneously addressed.

While undernutrition is the prevailing issue with one in five young children (22%) affected by stunting or chronic undernutrition, there are disturbing trends for increased overweight and obesity, especially in the urban areas.

The recent nationally representative Demographic and Health Survey (2013) showed 25% of women to be overweight or obese. Diarrheal disease, arising from poor water and sanitation conditions, remains the leading cause of death to young children, and chronic disease burden has grown. Similarly, Haiti ranks among the top 25 countries for death rates due to diabetes (4.37%) and hypertension (5.43%) (WHO 2011).

The Global Research Site project leverages an ongoing initiative to launch a public health higher education degree program in the North Department of Haiti. In 2014, the Brown School signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UPNCH to develop this degree program. It prioritizes public health education and research capacity building. This project aims to create a comprehensive strategy for addressing malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of life with an overall objective of improving child health and development. Preliminary research will focus on understanding the full spectrum of risk factors for malnutrition and related infectious and chronic diseases conditions.

The vision is for Haiti to be among the first countries globally, to simultaneously reduce undernutrition and stop the early emerging overnutrition trend through transdisciplinary public health.