With its Population Health Initiative, the University of Washington annually distributes research grant funding for one-of-a-kind projects that address unique health challenges here in Washington and around the world. This year, three of the awarded research teams include faculty members from the Department of Global Health: Peter Rabinowitz, Charles Mock, James Pfeiffer, Rachel Chapman, and Steve Gloyd.

The projects including Department of Global Health researchers aim to support a wide, interdisciplinary range of issues around the world, with several different areas of expertise being put to use. While one of the grants will strive to ensure equal access to trauma care in Washington State, one is examining the environmental and health impacts of a new invasive species in Madagascar, with the final project conducting research with a community of female health workers in Somalia. The awarded teams including DGH faculty members are:


Project: Environmental and human health impacts of a new invasive species in Madagascar

In Madagascar, where rice is a dietary staple for a large portion of the community, the invasion of non-native crayfish pose a huge threat to its agricultural production. Since it appeared in Madagascar’s lakes for the first time in 2005, the marbled crayfish now covers an area of 100,000 km on the small island nation. While the human population could be greatly impacted by the crayfish’s effect on rice production, Madagascar is also home to diverse freshwater fauna who are at risk as well. However, the crayfish species is also a predator of freshwater snails that transmit schistosomiasis and presents a renewable protein source in a country with a substantial population of malnourished children.   

The grant, which includes Global Health professor and UW MetaCenter Director Peter Rabinowitz as an investigator, would fund a project in collaboration with RISEAL (an association that helps alleviate the spread of diseases, mainly schistosomiasis), and Madagascar’s Ministry of Health. This project’s purpose is to provide the Malagasy government with the information needed to manage the marbled crayfish and limit its detrimental impact on local biodiversity while maximizing the potential benefits to public health. 

Other investigators on this project include Chelsea Wood, Luciano Andriamaro, Susanna Sokolow, Giulo DeLoe, and Julia PG Jones, who represent Madagascar’s Réseau International Schistosomiase Environment Amenagement et Lutte, as well as Stanford University, and Bangor University in Wales.


Project: Ensuring equal access to trauma care in Washington State through system modeling

In a collaboration between the UW School of Medicine, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, this project will develop a model to determine where trauma centers should be located. This approach not only has the potential to strengthen existing trauma systems around the U.S., but also to help develop systems in low-resource settings. The mathematical modeling approach has the ability to account for complex interactions between multiple inputs from the Washington State Trauma system. Charles Mock, a Global Health professor, is helping to lead this grant along with faculty from the Departments of Surgery, Industrial & Systems Engineering, and Anesthesia.

For adults under 45, children, and adolescents, trauma is the leading cause of mortality. Injuries sustained from traumatic experiences often cause long-term disability, and the creation of organized trauma systems carries the potential of saving lives and improving outcomes after injury. Experts say the optimal trauma system balances access to care while avoiding duplication of resources within one geographic region. As of today, no validated method has been established to optimize the location of trauma centers, something that this project hopes to accomplish while prioritizing positive patient outcomes.


Project: Formative Research with the Female Community Health Workers (Marwo Caafimaad) Program to Reduce Mortality in Puntland, Somalia

With funding from the UW Office of Global Affairs, this project will conduct research and design an intervention to reduce the maternal mortality rate in Puntland, Somalia. The Somalia Ministry of Health has supported this proposal as they continue to prioritize the reduction of maternal mortality. This proposal is a joint effort by the Seattle-based Somali Health Board (SHB), UW faculty and students, and the Department of Global Health center Health Alliance International (HAI). Three DGH faculty members – James Pfeiffer, Rachel Chapman, and Steve Gloyd – will serve as investigators.

The team plans to collect quantitative data on maternal and child health indicators, analyze this data, and formulate an intervention study proposal. One focus of this project is to make more successful referrals of high-risk pregnancies to health centers and hospitals where they can receive proper treatment. DGH faculty will provide implementation science assistance, with Somali-American student researchers supporting data gathering and analysis as well. Members of the University of Washington’s Departments of Pediatrics, History, and Near Eastern Languages & Civilization, are also investigators for this grant.

Altogether, the six projects that will be funded by the Population Health Initiative showcase not only the inventive and nuanced research done by the Department of Global Health, but by the University of Washington as a whole. “The breadth of innovative project ideas and interdisciplinary collaborations represented in this year’s round of applications is impressive,” said Ali H. Mokdad, the university’s chief strategy officer for population health and professor of health metrics sciences. “We believe each of these projects has strong potential to improve the population health of communities on our own campus, in our region and state, and around the world.”