Our Research

Integrated psychosocial, nutritional, and health intervention to improve early child development in Liberia

Funded by the University of South Carolina ASPIRE I grant

Children living in Liberia face considerable adversity which can negatively impact their health, development, and overall wellbeing. Helping caregivers improve the knowledge and skills needed to support their child’s emotional, physical, and cognitive development, and provide children with nutrient-rich foods, is crucial for enabling children to reach their full potential. This study tests the feasibility and acceptability of an integrated intervention that promotes psychosocial stimulation and improved child feeding by the provision of eggs and fish built onto the existing government health system.

Effects of iron interventions on child neurocognition in Bangladesh

Funded by the University of Melbourne and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia

Iron deficiency and anemia have been associated with poor cognition in children, yet the direct effects of iron supplementation on neurocognition remain unclear. In this study, we compare the effects of supplementation with iron syrup and iron-containing multiple micronutrient powders (MNPs) versus placebo on neural indices of habituation and resting state brain function using electroencephalography in Bangladeshi children.

The influence of hepcidin on benefits and risks of iron supplementation in Bangladeshi children

Funded by the Thrasher Research Fund

Universal distribution of iron to young children (either as iron-containing Multiple Micronutrient Powders – MNPs, or iron supplements e.g. drops) is recommended by the World Health Organization in areas where anemia is prevalent, but these interventions have been linked to increased risk of diarrhea and pathogenic shifts in the microbiome. Intestinal iron fractional absorption is determined by host iron and inflammatory status mediated by the iron regulatory hormone hepcidin. Studies to examine the influence of hepcidin on the benefits and risks of iron supplementation in various forms are needed to inform public health interventions. In this study, we use data from the Benefits and Risks of Iron Supplementation in Children (BRISC) trial in Bangladesh to examine whether children’s response to iron and MNP supplementation depends on baseline hepcidin levels.

Employing a big data approach to elucidate three decade’s impact of extreme weather events on early childhood development in the United States 

Funded by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Global climate change poses widespread potential negative health effects. Children are a particularly vulnerable population given that the first few years of life, including prenatally, is a critical period for physical and brain development that sets the foundation for lifelong learning, health, and well-being. Poor child health and development may be exacerbated by extreme weather events, which threaten to disproportionately affect children already at risk of suboptimal health.This study will use a multi-level longitudinal design with big data methods to investigate the impact of climate change on USA-based pediatric development over the past two decades.

Redesigning GMPs to improve nutrition, health and development of children 

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Growth monitoring is the process of following the growth of children by periodic, frequent anthropometric measurements that are compared to an appropriate standard to assess the adequacy of the child’s growth.The goal of this study is to re-examine the use of growth monitoring and promotion to address child health and development. 

Determining a functional hemoglobin threshold to define anemia in children and women

Funded by the USC Big Data Science Center Pilot Program Grant

Anemia affects approximately 40% of children, 30% of non-pregnant women, and 37% of non-pregnant women across the world, and is a key contributor to maternal mortality, birth outcomes, and child development. The World Health Organization is currently reviewing the evidence around hemoglobin cutoffs used to define anemia, which were developed more than 50 years ago and based on predominantly white adult populations from North America and Europe.  To inform the diagnosis of anemia, we have developed a strategy to examine hemoglobin concentrations that correspond with meaningful differences in functional health outcomes. Using data from children, pregnant and non-pregnant women from all Prisma Health sites in the Upstate of South Carolina, our objectives are to: 1) identify hemoglobin thresholds associated with optimal health outcomes, such as birth weight, preterm birth, depression, and child developmental milestones, and 2) determine whether the etiology of anemia modifies the hemoglobin thresholds. 

Understanding essential caregiving practices in high-risk adolescent and young mothers in South Carolina

The first 3 years of life is a time of sensitivity, both to insults and positive inputs, and presents a critical time in which to intervene to have long-lasting benefits. Parenting interventions have seldom been implemented and rigorously evaluated in adolescent parents. Adolescent and young mothers are a high-risk population that faces different stressors and needs than older mothers, and therefore are likely to benefit from different interventions. The overall goal of the proposed study is to understand caregiving and health attitudes and behaviors and social supports (or lack thereof) experienced by adolescent and young mothers that may influence their child’s health and development.