RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Striving to Improve Global Health

September 2012Diana Austin

It’s often said that disease (and poverty, its frequent bedfellow) respects no boundaries. The eight researchers highlighted below collaborate with local communities to tease out and address factors that can improve health across diverse populations and reduce health disparities that plague many regions of the world.

Kimberly Baltzell Kimberly Baltzell, PhD, RN, is the principal investigator of a UCSF Resource Allocation Program-funded project that is exploring how Zanzibar health workers diagnose and manage febrile illness in children who test negative for malaria. She also has launched a study in three districts in Zanzibar to study the quality of rapid diagnostic tests for malaria used in rural health clinics, as well as types of malaria species found. The goal of much of her work is to introduce new point-of-care diagnostics in rural clinics that can foster appropriate prescribing of antibiotics and improve health outcomes. Additionally, Baltzell advises UCSF global health sciences students who conduct research on malaria risk perception.

Carol Dawson-Rose Carol Dawson-Rose, PhD, RN, is the principal investigator on a five-year project to implement “Prevention with Positives” training programs at health centers throughout Mozambique. As part of a cooperative agreement with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Global AIDS Program, in areas hit hardest by the HIV epidemic, Dawson-Rose and her colleagues help train health care workers to integrate HIV prevention into medical care during routine clinic visits. Project partners include UCSF, the International Training and Education Center for Health, and Vanderbilt University’s Friends in Global Health. Dawson-Rose is also working with Prevenção Activa e Comunicação para Todos (PACTO, also known as Active Prevention and Communication for All) on a USAID-funded project in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University to focus HIV prevention efforts in three targeted areas in Mozambique.

Shari Dworkin Shari Dworkin, PhD, focuses on (1) the intersection of economic empowerment and HIV/AIDS prevention and (2) the effect of socially defined notions of masculinity on HIV risk. For one project, she collaborates with the University of Cape Town and Sonke Gender Justice Network (a South African nongovernmental organization, or NGO) to examine the impact of an antiviolence and HIV prevention program for South African men that seeks to shift gender roles and create more gender-equitable relationships. She also works with the Kenyan Medical Research Institute and GROOTS (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood) Kenya, to study the impact of community-led property rights programming on women’s empowerment and health in Nyanza and Western Provinces, Kenya.

Judith Justice Judith Justice, PhD, MPH, conducts research that centers on global health policy, including foreign assistance to the health sector, development of new vaccines and delivery of childhood immunizations, the cultural context of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease, reproductive and child health, and the role of NGOs in global health. At present, she collaborates with researchers in Africa, Asia and Europe to promote health-policy research and augment the role of social scientists in health-related research.


Carmen Portillo Carmen Portillo, PhD, RN, is co-director of the International Center for HIV/AIDS Research & Clinical Training in Nursing. She directed the five-year Tanzania HIV/AIDS Nursing Education Project, a collaborative effort between UCSF and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences Schools of Nursing to build nursing capacity for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment to 62 Tanzanian nursing schools, and to provide additional training and education for faculty. She has also been involved in research conducted in Africa on stigma and HIV/AIDS and was a member of the Institute of Medicine task force “Preparing for the Future of HIV/AIDS in Africa: A Shared Responsibility.”

Sally Rankin Sally Rankin, PhD, RN, is currently focused on implementation science and the monitoring and evaluation of outcomes related to nursing-workforce capacity in Malawi. The project is funded by USAID; Rankin is the principal investigator on a subcontract to an NGO, Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance. She also co-directed a US State Department-funded collaborative project with the University of Alabama, Birmingham, to help health care professionals address health disparities and provide care for marginalized populations in Malawi and Zambia. Last year, the project brought 12 health care workers from Malawi to San Francisco, where they spent time observing several nurse-led projects serving vulnerable populations. Rankin also was among a group of UCSF faculty that traveled to Malawi to conduct workshops in which they helped faculty get research published in peer-reviewed publications; helped develop the curriculum for a doctoral nursing program at Kamuzu College of Nursing, part of the University of Malawi; and reviewed the pilot work for an emergency and first aid “first responders” course in Malawi.

Lisa Thompson Lisa Thompson, PhD, RN, is working on expanding the evidence of an association between low birth weight, decreased anthropometric growth (primarily stunting and wasting) and neurodevelopmental delay among children who are heavily exposed to particulate matter and carbon monoxide from solid-fuel cookstoves in developing countries. She recently returned from Bangladesh, where she was trained to conduct infant neurodevelopmental assessments for use in her research. In July 2012, she returned to Guatemala to adapt the Rapid Neurodevelopmental Assessment (RNDA) instrument for local use by trained field-workers.

Zachary Zimmer Zachary Zimmer, PhD, examines the health and well-being of older adults in developing countries from a demographic perspective. He is particularly interested in the varied impacts of social change and has examined a variety of related topics in East and Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and, more recently, Eastern Europe. He is currently the principal investigator on an NIH-funded project examining trajectories of disability and mortality among older adults in several rapidly aging Asian societies. In addition, he is interested in the impact of migration on older adults, is working on a United Nations-funded project on rural-urban migration in Cambodia, and has ongoing research that considers the impact of migration on older adults left behind in Romania. He recently completed an NIH-funded project examining urban/rural disparities in health and mortality in China.