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The Year in Review: 
Highlights and Announcements
from the 2017-2018 Academic Year

Welcome to the AGPHI Member Newsletter! If you haven’t heard of us, the Applied Global Public Health Initiative (AGPHI) is a lab within NYU’s College of Global Public Health (GPH) that is run by students and overseen by Dr. Chris Dickey. The lab focuses on project-based global public health research in collaboration with industry sponsors and frequently hosts renowned guest speakers to discuss creative solutions to public health issues around the world. This year, AGPHI members had the opportunity to work on a number of projects in collaboration with industry sponsors from UNICEF, to Grameen Vidasana, to startup organizations bringing sustainable waste management systems to developing countries. Through collaborating with outside organizations, not only have we developed new, important skills for our future careers but we have expanded our understanding of what it means to be public health practitioners.  

In January, AGPHI team members Hannah Berg, Felicity Duran and Emily Holzman entered the HeroX Aging Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the NY Department of Health. The challenge called for new, innovative products that would address activities of daily living (ADLs) for the aging population. To address the often-neglected ADL of sleep, the team decided to create an app: NightLight. NightLight was designed to give older adults the ability to access sleep sounds and guided meditations on demand to fall asleep and stay asleep naturally. In searching for easy-to-use solutions, the team focused on providing personalized sleep hygiene resources to establish and maintain healthy sleep practices and provide clear, concise, factual information about sleep issues and solutions in a centralized location.

Aging Innovation Challenge

Project Highlights

The team found that technologies such as these for the aging population are incredibly timely. Adoption of technology by older adults has increased by more than 50% from 2000 to 2014. Nearly 42% of adults over 65, and 59% of adults 65-69, now own a smartphone of some kind. Despite this large-scale adoption, barriers to usage continue to exist including feelings of unclear instructions, health-related barriers, and overall cost. To mitigate these, NightLight was designed to have a simple interface, large fonts and buttons, intuitive design, and minimal steps with easily understandable instructions. The team’s main goal was to make older adults feel confident in utilizing the app, providing them with a sense of self-efficacy, and ultimately better health outcomes through improving sleep. If older adults feel as though they understand and have control over the app, evidence demonstrates that they will feel confident in using it and integrating it into their nightly routines.

Home-Grown School Feeding Programs: Ethiopia

For their capstone project, AGPHI members Pratik Sourav, Amber McLeod, Kiera Bloch and Ana Camargo went to Ethiopia where they worked with the World Food Programme (WFP) to evaluate its home grown school feeding program (HSGF).  WFP began implementing school feeding interventions in Ethiopia decades ago to combat these issues, but the homegrown school feeding pilot program was started in Ethiopia in 2012. The program originally relied mainly on in-kind donations but has now shifted its focus to locally sourcing sustainable foods, with its ultimate goal being to improve health outcomes and school performance in children, while bolstering agricultural development in the community.  This all contributes to the achievement of the UN’s broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relating to health, education, equality and economic growth.

The objective of the  project was for the capstone team to evaluate and modify WFP’s “Theory of Change,” which essentially postulates that school feeding programs lead to reduced food insecurity, better nutritional and health outcomes for children, and improved academic performance and school completion rates, while stimulating the agricultural economy.  The team also identified bottlenecks in the delivery of the HSGF program and the nutritional content of the meals, and assessed the unintended consequences of school feeding programs.

To do this, the capstone team partnered with WFP to conduct key informant interviews at the Ethiopian Ministries of Health and Education, WFP Country Offices, Regional Bureau of Education, and 12 different primary schools (4 of which were HSGF schools). They also looked at comparison schools in the capital, Addis, where the First Lady’s Initiative to provide school meals had been implemented, and at schools without any form of school feeding program.  One of the capstone students, Kiera Bloch, commented on this aspect of their research, saying:

“Some of the most interesting things we learned were when we took a system-wide approach and were able to observe the unintended consequences of these school feeding programs. One thing we saw was that if you’re not “needy enough” to receive school feeding, it can actually increase the equity gap and some interesting things end up happening.”  

In the schools that didn’t have a school feeding program but were located near schools that did, children would end up going to the school that provided food and educators would apply to be transferred because they believe that professional evaluations tend to be higher for teachers in schools that provide food and water. This ultimately left the school without the feeding program in a worse position, with fewer attendees and fewer resources. Using the information from their system-wide interviews and observations, the team identified different indicators to assess the success of these programs under the “Theory of Change.” They then conducted a nutritional analysis to determine the nutritional makeup of the meals and make recommendations for where some micronutrients may be missing or where changes in portion size need to be made.  The team presented their final project in May and hope to continue their collaboration with WFP in improving the health and educational outcomes of school children in Ethiopia.

Speaker Highlights

An important aspect of our AGPHI meetings is networking with, and learning from, experts across the field of public health.  We have hosted public health professionals from around the world who have tackled various aspects of this intersectional discipline and who are eager to work with driven, passionate, and creative GPH students.   

Topaz Page-Green, The Lunchbox Fund

We were thrilled to have Topaz Page-Green, founder of the amazing nonprofit organization, the Lunchbox Fund,  come and speak to the lab this spring! The Lunchbox Fund is South Africa’s only non-government national school nutrition provider, and has developed an efficient model that allows the organization to provide 4 children with a meal for the equivalent of only $1 USD!  Topaz explained that the organization is able to provide school lunches to over 25,000 children all across South Africa each day, and that they intend to expand their services until they are able to reach all 4 million children in South Africa who experience food insecurity.  The Lunchbox Fund believes that children who have access to food and sufficient nourishment at school are more likely to stay in school, and that a proper education will open doors for them in the future.

With the Lunchbox Fund seeking to expand their operations into other countries, we are excited that they have chosen to partner with a team from AGPHI to research areas of need and identify possible partnerships and stakeholders in these prospective regions!  CLICK HERE to learn more about the Lunchbox Fund and their work in South Africa!

AGPHI Events

Presentations by Dr. Jo Boufford and Dr. Edward O’Bryan

On May 4th, the Applied Global Public Health Initiative (AGPHI) and the Healthcare Consulting Organization (HCO) hosted a joint event at the Standard, East Village, that brought together students from the global health and policy and management concentrations to discuss the challenges of urbanization and the solutions that to creating healthier cities worldwide. Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, former Dean of the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School and current GPH professor, gave a talk about the upcoming International Conference on Urban Health to be held in Kampala, Uganda and the importance of good governance in improving health in cities worldwide. Dr. Edward O’Bryan, attending physician and associate professor for the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, and co-founder of the nonprofit organization OneWorld Health, discussed OneWorld Health’s sustainable business model and its mission to provide quality care to communities in Africa and Central America.


Both speakers emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary cooperation in solving cross-cutting public health issues from the effects of urbanization to the implementation of health care in low and middle-income countries.  In the spirit of collaboration, the College also used this opportunity to announce the possibility of a joint certificate program between the global health and policy and management concentrations to emphasize the importance of policy in creating healthier, more sustainable cities. Initiatives such as these continue to demonstrate GPH’s strong commitment to creating large-scale change.

Appropriately, the event culminated with a visit from a popular eco-friendly vehicle, giving students a lens into the future of sustainable transportation and the role it can play in public health and cities worldwide. We are looking forward to hosting more fun, collaborative events like this with other clubs and labs at GPH!

As we reach the end of a very successful year atAGPHI, we would like to acknowledge the students who have graduated this year and who have made tremendous contributions to AGPHIand to the greater field of public health. So, thank you and congratulations to Pratik Sourav, Anthony Donadia, Hannah Berg, Humma Sheikh, Leanne Demery, Shatha Muhsineh, Shalom Igwe and Amber McLeod!

A special thanks goes out to the 2017/2018AGPHI E-Board who dedicated so much of their time and energy to the Initiative, seeking out projects and speakers, coordinating meetings, and laying the groundwork for continued success in the coming years.  Thank you Kiera Bloch, Sarah Bender, and Ana Camargo for all of your hard work and best of luck in your future endeavors!

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