The students, faculty and staff of the UNC Gillings School work in more than 60 countries to address urgent global health challenges. Now, with the launch of a new global hub in Zambia, they have even more opportunities to engage — and this is just the beginning.
Over the coming years, key leaders at the Gillings School will establish a small number of sustained geographic hubs to give more focus to the school’s portfolio of global work. The Zambia Hub — made possible in large part due to the long-standing work of UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, UNC Global Projects Zambia and UNC Global Women’s Health — is kicking off with three initiatives that support safer pregnancy and childbirth, and will expand to include additional health topics.
In 2019, four Gillings students had summer internships in Lusaka, Zambia. Partnering with local communities and members of UNC Global Women’s Health, they supported the following projects:
- Fetal Age and Machine Learning Initiative (FAMLI): This study aims to develop a robust, affordable ultrasound device that can be deployed in limited-resource settings with minimal operator expertise.
- Methods for Prevention Packages Program (MP3): This project explores whether the distribution of HIV self-test kits to pregnant women will increase HIV testing among their male partners.
- Improving Pregnancy Outcomes with Progesterone (IPOP) Study: This randomized controlled trial will evaluate antenatal progesterone prophylaxis for the prevention of preterm birth among pregnant women living with HIV.
“Having a consistent presence in-country and working with select partners makes it more effective to provide quality research and learning experiences, use our resources in a targeted way and improve public health,” said Barbara K. Rimer, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor at the Gillings School. “The hubs will enhance student skills, broaden faculty opportunities for research and teaching, and accelerate the Gillings School’s impact.”
The Zambia Hub aligns with the larger aspirational goal of the Gillings Global Guarantee, which was announced by Rimer in fall 2018. Her dream is that every residential Master of Public Health student have a funded global experience as part of their course of study.
“The experience I had at the Zambia Hub was extremely valuable,” said Taylor Craig, a master’s candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Over the summer, she conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis for the IPOP Study. “This work gave me the opportunity to apply the research methods skills I developed through courses at Gillings to a relevant issue in global health. It also offered me a chance to see global health issues from a different perspective and reflect on what I can do, as a future public health professional, to improve health care systems around the world.”
In addition to creating opportunities for UNC faculty members to work in hubs and explore global health, leaders at the Gillings School are encouraging researchers and practitioners from Zambia to visit North Carolina for exchanges, sabbaticals and degree programs.
“UNC-Chapel Hill faculty have been working in Zambia for nearly two decades,” said Dr. Ben Chi,a professor in UNC’s Division of Global Women’s Health and the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. “The new hub builds upon that foundation to enhance Carolina’s research in the field and strengthen our collaborations with local partners such as the University of Zambia. This is an exciting opportunity, and we are delighted to take part.”
“The Gillings School has been very strategic in building a footprint in Zambia,” added Kurt Ribisl, professor and chair in the Department of Health Behavior. “I was fortunate to visit Ben Chi in Lusaka this September. I saw firsthand the opportunities for meaningful public health work and was able to meet some of the amazing partners dedicated to making a difference. The Zambia Hub will open exciting new training and research opportunities for our students and faculty.”
Learn more atsph.unc.edu/hubs.