The Global Health Initiative is building a directory of global health-related research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Faculty: Help us build this directory by submitting a description of your work (bluestem login required). To update an existing profile, simply re-submit the entire updated profile in the same form. Existing photos will be retained unless if a new photo is submitted.

(Click on a name below to jump to entry)


Amos, Jennifer                                                                                                         Andrade, Flavia
Andrade, Juan
Bashir, Rashid
Bekteshi, Venera
Bretl, Timothy Wolfe
Buckley, Cynthia
Chodzko-Zajko, Wojtek
Grigsby-Toussaint, Diana
Kalipeni, Ezekiel
Lough, Benjamin J
Lu, Yi
McNamara, Paul
Mendenhall, Ruby                                                                                                    Miller, Gay
Raffaelli, Marcela
Ruiz, Marilyn
Schwingel, Andiara
Shisler, Joanna                                                                                                      Winter-Nelson, Alex
Zerai, Assata


Jennifer Amos, PhD Jenny Amos photo

Teaching Associate Professor, Dept. of Bioengineering

My main research objective is to study applications of research-based pedagogy in the classroom and across a curriculum as well as design of assessment strategies for measuring student learning. Most of my educational research is at the program level, focusing on changes in faculty development and training needed to support new pedagogy as well as tracking student performance and development across the curriculum. I also have a passion for bringing professional skills (communication, ethics, historical perspectives, intercultural competency, and life-long learning) into the forefront of engineering education. My work spans K-12 outreach, undergraduate, graduate, and professional education settings.

My teaching philosophy involves focusing on big ideas, applied engineering and using systems-thinking approaches to problem solving. I like to introduce a little bit of theory behind topics, either the historical perspective or show derivations for relationships, and then show application. I also use projects as a way for students to explore concepts and apply their knowledge. For example, I teach our capstone design sequence where the students work on clinical and industry relevant projects and I also teach the Bioreactor Lab where students learn techniques and experimental design for tissue engineering careers. This also compliments my role in the department to look at the curriculum as a large system and analyze overlap, map concepts through courses, and make sure that we are covering what needs to be covered. We have a really unique curriculum and the faculty focus a lot of time and energy on constantly improving it.



Flavia Andrade, PhD, primary investigator

Demographic Changes and Health in Latin America and the Caribbean

Demographic changes, including aging, are occurring at a much faster rate in Latin American and Caribbean countries than in developed countries. In addition, epidemiological and nutritional transitions are also in progress. “There is a rise in the prevalence of chronic conditions, such as diabetes in Latin America and the Caribbean” says Flavia Andrade. “These countries have also been experiencing dramatic changes in diet, such as increased consumption of refined carbohydrates, sugars, and fats. At the same time, physical activity levels are not improving in these countries.”

To better understand the impact of these transitions on the health and well-being of individuals in Latin American and Caribbean countries, Dr. Andrade has been exploring the impact of obesity, diabetes, and related diseases on healthy life expectancy in these countries, Brazil and Mexico in particular. She has also been extending her research to understand how socioeconomic inequalities play a role in the well-being of older adults in these countries.

In her second project, Dr. Andrade has been addressing how the epidemiological and nutritional transitions underway in Mexico are influencing the health and well-being of young adults. In UP Amigos, a collaborative project between University of Illinois and the Universidad Autonóma de San Luis Potosí in Mexico, she has been analyzing environmental and genetic determinants of obesity and related diseases based on biological and survey data collected on more than 30,000 college applicants.

Finally, given the connection between health outcomes in Latin America and among Latinos in the U.S., Dr. Andrade been has exploring how epidemiological, nutritional, and demographic transitions have been affecting the health and well-being of Latinos in the U.S. The overarching goal of her research is to identify factors at multiple levels of analysis that are linked to health outcomes and amenable to intervention. Ultimately, Dr. Andrade would like her research to contribute toward longer, better, and healthier lives for these populations.

Dr. Andrade received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A native of Brazil, she has taught at universities in Brazil and worked for many organizations, including foundations and governmental institutions in Brazil and the United Nations. Her work has been published in books and various academic journals.

jJuan E. Andrade, PhD,
primary investigator

Stealth Micronutrient Fortification

Dr. Andrade’s long term goal is to develop sustainable strategies that can be used to increase and sustain consumption of micronutrients by residents of developing countries and thereby help to promote human health and economic development. His research interests are focused on food fortification, point-of-care technologies for assessment of micronutrient deficiencies, quality of food aid products, and service, experiential learning study abroad programs.

Dr. Andrade’s current research efforts have focused on the problem of micronutrient malnutrition, assessment of prevalent deficiencies and delivery of fortified foods. Current evidence supports the use of low-cost, stealth technologies as a sustainable approach to improve health in rural areas. Thus, along with colleagues at the College of ACES he is developing a low-cost, point-of-consumption fortification technology, known as NutrigemsTM, to deliver appropriate nutrition to children in rural Honduras. This technology uses local foods and the participation of school teachers and parents.

Furthermore, Dr. Andrade is using these international projects as an innovative educational platform to train college students in food science and human nutrition. Along with colleagues at Illinois and Honduras, he has designed and implemented an intensive study abroad program at Zamorano University, which provides our juniors and seniors in FSHN with hands-on, service and experiential learning activities in Honduras.


Rashid BashirRashid Bashir, PhD, primary investigator

Other investigators: Nicholas Watkins; Gregory Damhorst; William Rodriguez, MD

Micro-Fluidic Biochips for Counting of CD4+ White Blood Cells for HIV/AIDs

HIV/AIDS affects more than 33 million people throughout the world, and is an especially critical problem in resource-poor regions in sub-Saharan Africa, where 67% of all HIV/AIDS patients live. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) increases the longevity and quality of life for HIV patients, and global efforts increased the accessibility of such treatment 30-fold in sub-Saharan Africa between 2003 and 2008. However, the lack of objective diagnostic tests to determine when to start ART and to monitor its success hinders the effective use of treatment. In the absence of appropriate diagnostic tests, clinicians may rely on less accurate assessments, ranging from self-described symptoms or insensitive laboratory tests. An important diagnostic procedure is to obtain a patient’s CD4+ T lymphocyte count. The cost and technical requirements of commercial instruments are too taxing for the debilitated healthcare infrastructures of resource-poor regions. Towards this goal, we are working on developing microfabricated biochips that enumerates CD4+ T lymphocytes from leukocyte populations obtained from human blood samples using electrical impedance sensing and immunoaffinity chromatography. T cell counts are found by obtaining the difference between the number of leukocytes before and after depleting CD4+ T cells with immobilized antibodies in a capture chamber. In addition, the counter provided T cell counts which correlated closely with an optical control for CD4 cell concentrations ranging from approximately 100 to 700 cells per mL. We believe that this approach can be a promising method for bringing quantitative HIV/AIDS diagnostics to resource-poor regions in the world.


nophotoVenera Bekteshi, PhD, primary investigator

Cultural implications of emotional barriers to mammography screening among Latina immigrants

Latino cultural principles play a significant role in shaping the beliefs and emotions of Latina/Hispanic immigrant women about cancer and mammography. Understanding both structural and emotional based barriers to mammography screening produces the comprehensive knowledge needed to identify solutions to global health disparity elimination. The study hypothesizes that Latino culture influences the relationship between Latina/Hispanic immigrant women individual beliefs and feelings and their mammography participation. The second hypothesis stipulates that Latina/Hispanic immigrant women in Illinois are more likely to adhere to screening mammography recommendations if they feel susceptible to breast cancer, think breast cancer is a severe disease, and perceive barriers to screening as lower than perceived benefits. The Health Belief Model (HBM) guides the research methodology of this study. The quantitative portion of the survey includes closed-ended questions intended to measure the HBS concepts. The second part of the survey includes the open-ended qualitative questions to obtain an in-depth understanding of 1) Emotions and beliefs that Latina/Hispanic immigrant women have with regards to mammography, and 2) Latino cultural influence on these emotions and beliefs. The surveys will be available in both, Spanish and English. Significance. The study illuminate essential factors that are preventing Latina/Hispanic immigrant women in rural Illinois (majority of whom are low-income) from accessing mammography and thus avoid experienced a disproportionate burden of breast-cancer related deaths in this new-growth Latino state.


Timothy Wolfe Bretl, PhD, primary investigator

Other Investigators: Aadeel Akhtar, Kyung Yun Choi

Design, Analysis, and Control of Prosthetic Hands

Our goal is to improve the functional performance of upper-limb prostheses (e.g., prosthetic hands or arms). We use surface electromyography (EMG) with pattern recognition to enable control. We use vibrotactile, electrotactile, and skin stretch feedback to restore a sense of proprioception and touch. All of this work is done in collaboration with three partners. With Levi Hargrove at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, we study the use of prosthetic hands by people with upper-limb amputations who have received targeted reinnervation. With John Rogers and his research group, we develop flexible, stretchable epidermal electronic sensors that replace standard EMG electrodes. With the Range of Motion Project, we apply our technology to meet the needs of people with upper-limb amputations in Ecuador. Learn more about the project here. 


buckleyCynthia Buckley, PhD
primary investigator

Reproductive Health Improvements in Central Asia: How much and for whom?

This project seeks to test the amplifying effects of social capital on the ability to benefit from government health interventions through a detailed examination of demographic surveys in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan 1995-2011. I focus on the ways in which age, ethnicity, language and wealth have prevented specific groups of women across the region from taking part in overall improvements in sexual health knowledge and contraceptive familiarity.


WWojtek Chodzko-Zajko , PhD
, primary investigator

Other investigators: Andiara Schwingel

Transnational Strategies for the Promotion of Physical Activity and Active Aging: The World Health Organization Model of Consensus Building in International Public Health

For a number of years, my colleagues and I have had the good fortune to work on a series of projects sponsored by the Aging and Life Course Program at the World Health Organization (WHO).  The Aging and Life Course program has systematically advocated for a public health agenda that includes an increased focus on chronic disease prevention through the reduction of high risk behaviors, such as, stopping smoking and reducing excessive alcohol consumption, and the promotion of  healthy lifestyle choices, including increased physical activity and adequate and healthy nutrition (Kalache, 1996).  In a recent publication (Chodzko-Zajko & Schwingel, 2009), my colleague Andiara Schwingel and I examined the four step process adopted by the WHO in its systematic campaign to promote physically active lifestyles by older adults across the 193 member states of the WHO.  The four steps adopted by the WHO include (1) Building Consensus Among Professionals; (2) Educating the Public and Building Consumer Demand; (3) Developing an Active Aging Public Policy Framework; and (4) Refining, Expanding, and Evolving the Model.  For each of these steps the WHO approach sought input from a wide variety of sources in each of the six WHO regions (Africa; Americas; South-East Asia; Europe; Eastern Mediterranean; Western Pacific) in order to systematically build a transnational consensus with regard to the importance of regular physical activity as a critical component of the prevention of chronic disease and the promotion of high quality of life in the older adult population.

European Union Consensus Consortium on Frailty

In 2011 the European Union established a consortium of experts from around the world who were charged with the development of a consensus definition of frailty for application across the member states of the European Union.

As the older adult population grows across the European States, strategies for promoting health, independence, and quality of life among the older population are perceived to be of increasing importance.  One important area involves identifying those older persons who are frail and at highest risk for disability and loss of independence.  The FOD-CC (Frailty Operative Definition-Consensus Collaboration) project aims at providing a consensus definition of “frailty”  involving experts from a variety of different disciplines with the goal of developing the most complete and concrete definition of frailty to date.

Using the Delphi Questionnaire Technique, experts from across Europe and North America have examined frailty from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives.  Disciplinary groups include Geriatricians; Non-Geriatric Clinicians; Health Workers; Basic Scientists; and Social and Non-Governmental.

Professor Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko is representing the University of Illinois on the FOD-CC project and on the FOD-CC writing group.  The consortium will meet next in Madrid in October 2011 and expects to publish the outcomes of the project in 2012.


grigsby-150x150Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, PhD,
primary investigator

Chronic Disease Risk in Developing Countries

Diana S. Grigsby-Toussaint is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  As a social epidemiologist, her research attempts to elucidate how and why socio-environmental factors influence health.  Results of some of Dr. Grigsby-Toussaints work have appeared in journals at the forefront of diabetes and obesity translational research such as Diabetes Care and Obesity.

Internationally, Dr. Grigsby-Toussaint has explored the use of registries to track diabetes risk in Egypt, as well as the role of traditional healers in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.  She is also currently working with her graduate students to explore socio-environmental risk factors associated with obesity risk among young adults in South Africa using secondary data analysis.

In 2011, Dr. Grigsby-Toussaint was selected as one of approximately 150 individuals from applicants across the US to participate in the 9th Annual National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) conference, a 15-year effort of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, to catalyze interdisciplinary inquiry.


kalipeniEzekiel Kalipeni, PhD
, primary investigator

HIV/AIDS and gender in Malawi and southern Africa

Ezekiel Kalipeni is a Professor of Geography at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His areas of specialization are Medical Geography, Population Studies, Environmental Issues, and Health Care with specific reference to Africa. He is keenly interested in demographic, health, environmental, and resource issues in sub-Saharan Africa. He has carried out extensive research on the population dynamics of Malawi and Africa in general, concentrating on migration, fertility, mortality, and health. His recent work has addressed aspects of gender equity, especially in the important area of HIV/AIDS in Africa. His current research projects include work on HIV/AIDS and gender in Malawi and southern Africa.


nophotoBenjamin J Lough, PhD
, primary investigator

Other investigators: Edward O’Neil, Patrick Kibaya, Zachary Tabb

Assessing the Impacts of International Volunteers and Village Health Workers on Community Health in Uganda

Dr. Lough will be analyzing data collected by a third party to assess the benefit of village health workers (VHWs) on community outcomes. The study specifically examines the added value of VHW training from international health care workers compared to villages that do not have VHW training.


yiluYi Lu, PhD
, primary investigator

Novel methods for low-cost and Simple Point-of-Care Diagnostics

Portable, low-cost, and simple detection of a broad range of targets at home and in the field can revolutionize medical diagnostics, which is a foundation of global health. Despite many years of research, few such devices are commercially available to the public. We have developed simple dipstick colorimetric tests by combining functional DNA and gold particles for qualitative or semi-quantitative detection. For quantitative detection, there are still significant barriers by the public to adopt new devices or technologies developed in academic laboratories. We are exploring a way to overcome this barrier by taking advantages of the wide availability and low cost of the pocket-sized personal glucose meter (PGM) to detect many non-glucose targets, ranging from a recreational drug (cocaine) to an important biological cofactor (adenosine), to a disease marker (interferon-gamma of tuberculosis, PSA or HBV) and to a toxic metal ion (uranium). We have achieved the success by using target-induced release of conjugates between functional DNAs or antibodies and an enzyme that can convert PGM-inert sucrose into PGM-detectable glucose through enzymatic turnovers. Since in vitro selection can be used to obtain functional DNA/RNA to bind a wide range of targets and antibodies for many targets are available, this approach can be readily used by the general public to detect many other non-glucose targets.


mcnamaraPaul McNamara, PhD
, primary investigator

Other investigators: Bashiru Koroma (Njala University)

Farmer Health and Agricultural Productivity in Rural Sierra Leone

What are the links between farmer health and agricultural productivity in Sierra Leone?  Do investments in public health have measurable short-term impacts on farm output and food security?  This research aims to answer these questions with both qualitative and quantitative analyses in rural Sierra Leone.


mendenhallRuby Mendenhall, PhD
, primary investigator

Depression among Low-Income Black Women: Unraveling Risk and Protective Factors

The goal of my new research is to investigate the interaction between pivotal risk (poverty, violence, poor housing quality, role strain) and protective factors (housing stability, access to resources, social networks and religious practices) in depression among Black single mothers living in segregated high-risk urban communities. Specifically, I plan to use a mixed-methods, multilevel approach to understand what key aspects of segregated urban communities work together with the mothers risk and protective factors to uncover, provoke, and/or reduce depression. I argue that the quality of these womens roles is uniquely different from White low-income single mothers and middle-class single Black mothers. The imbalance between role demands and resources for low-income mothers often creates processes that put them at risk for depression. However, this is not the case for all single, black mothers in high-risk areas, a fact that is highlighted by the maxim Risk factors are not predictive factors due to protective factors. This maxim was developed by Dr. Carl Bell and former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher during discussions for the first cabinet-level council on prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. My multilevel study breaks new ground in understanding how depression is provoked or prevented among low-income, single Black mothers living in segregated high-risk urban communities by converging rigorous population-level data (Census and National Survey of American Life: Coping with Stress in the 21st Century) with qualitative findings (interviews of mothers) and biomarker data (stress hormones and iron status).

Gay Miller photoGay Miller, PhD

Professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology

I work at the nexus of epidemiology and economics; as such, my research includes production economics and decision making for disease prevention and optimal production performance for food animal producers. Her work also involves foreign animal disease preparedness and response, preharvest food safety economics, modeling pig flow and disease dynamics and the implications for firm profitability.                                                                                                                                         
In spring, 2014 I went to Sierra Leone for three weeks and taught Tropical Epidemiology at Njala University in Bo. This experience led to my giving three Teach-Ins at the UI campus in fall 2014 about Ebola, a human pandemic which began with cases first becoming obvious in Guinea (north of Sierra Leone) during the time I was teaching at Njala. This Ebola outbreak caused the loss of many lives in Western Africa and had impacts around the globe.                                                      

My experiences and materials developed for teaching Tropical Epidemiology at Njala have been extended by my developing an online course for UI undergraduates (ANS 499). This course is part of the GHI certificate program and will eventually be taught with students working at both Njala and UI. I include Ebola and other tropical diseases in my other teaching related to disease introduction and associated risks. There are many considerations related to hazards and risks from less traditional food sources (e.g. illegally imported foods such as smuggled bushmeat) that can enter the US and contribute to disease here. These are included in the course I teach on Outbreak Investigation (Path 645) and a contemporary topics seminar course (Path 527).

raffaelli_thumbMarcela Raffaelli, PhD
, primary investigator

Child and Adolescent Development in Potentially Challenging Circumstances

My main research focus is on understanding factors that allow children and adolescents to thrive despite growing up in potentially challenging circumstances. Some of the research I am conducting with colleagues in the U.S. looks at how immigrant Latino families and youth adapt to life in a new environment that often differs dramatically from what they left behind. In Brazil, I study child and adolescent development under conditions of extreme poverty, including homelessness. (read more)


ruiz-150x150Marilyn O. Ruiz, PhD
, primary investigator

Other investigators: Arun Sharma

Spatial Epidemiology for Public Health Challenges in India

The objective of this research is to assess the spatial variability of child and maternal health in Delhi slum households over time. It is funded through a Fulbright-Nehru Research Fellowship.  It includes the development of accurate maps of the households, identification of persistent areas with high incidence of illness and negative birth outcomes, development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) database with contextual data about the area, and an analysis that links the neighborhood level environmental and demographic conditions with health risk. We are investigating the problem of environmental factors that contribute to different health outcomes in vulnerable populations.

Mapping and analysis of spatial patterns of disease adds a critical and often missing dimension to understanding the processes behind poor health outcomes.  Spatial epidemiology has emerged recently as a specialized subfield of epidemiology with strong links to medical geography and disease ecology.   The use of spatial epidemiological tools will be of great value to better target programs and responses to problems of negative birth outcomes and poor health of young children living in the difficult slum conditions of Delhi.  The results of this research will be used to improve public health response to the areas targeted as being particularly at risk.  In addition, this work will help to disseminate advanced spatial methods for improved public health in an area where these methods have not been in widespread use.


Andiara Schwingel, PhD, primary investigator

Cultural Perspectives on Physical Activity among Older Latina Women

This research project proposes to examine the ways in which socio-cultural context impacts the health behavior of older Latinas, in particular, seeking to analyze barriers and facilitators to physical activity participation in aging minorities. The main purpose of the study is to increase our understanding of the factors that contribute to physical activity decisions among older Latina women. Specifically, using a mixed methods design, our goal is to explore perceptions, attitudes and values about physical activity in older Latina adults. We will do this by investigating:

  1. Older Latina adults’ understanding and awareness of the term physical activity
  2. Their interpretation of the socio-cultural contexts in which they chose (or chose not) to be physically active, and
  3. Their visualization of physical activity opportunities and barriers in their local environment.

This study has, for the first time, used accelerometers and photo elicitation techniques to explore how physically active and sedentary Latina older women view physical activity. Photo elicitation is a research technique that invites participants to take photographs of salient features in their lives that are both personally meaningful and possess significant explanatory power. The overall goal of our research agenda is to increase our understanding of how Latinas conceptualize physical activity with the ultimate goal of promoting health by increasing the physical activity levels in this population.


nophotoJoanna Shisler, PhD, primary investigator

Infectious Diseases and Global Health

Global health is compromised by infectious agents. Viruses are the most challenging microbes to eradicate; no broad-spectrum anti-viral drugs exist. Moreover, viruses can spread from wild or domesticated animals to cause zoonotic disease outbreaks in humans. The goal of my research is to understand how viruses remain infectious in the environment and in humans to causes diseases. To reach this goal, my laboratory studies two topics. First, I study how viruses are neutralized by various water disinfection treatments. Here, we determine the molecular basis of virus neutralization by chemical, ozone or UV light. Our results will benefit human health because it will identify the best means for removing harmful viruses from drinking water, thereby decreasing the transmission of water-borne viral diseases. A second topic area is to determine how viruses cause disease in humans. For this area of investigation, I study how a zoonotic poxvirus (vaccinia virus) evades the immune system. Here, we use both in vitro and in vivo systems to assess how the presence or absence of viral immune evasion proteins affects the severity of disease, the intensity if the immune response against the infection and virus replication. Our results will benefit human health because we will identify immune system components that control virus replication, allowing us to design drugs to boost these immune system components.


Alex Winter Nelson photo

Alex E. Winter-Nelson, PhD

Director of ACES Office of International Programs

My research is motivated by an interest in reducing poverty in developing countries. More specific research issues that I address include food and cash crop marketing in Africa, the relationship between agricultural technology and nutrition, and the impacts of animal disease on trade and development.


zeraiAssata Zerai, PhD, primary investigator

Hypermasculinity and State Violence in Zimbabwe: An Africana Feminist Analysis of Maternal and Child Health

I explore the demography of maternal and child health in Southern Africa from an Africana feminist sociological perspective. I present a framework that considers the ways that nation, race, class, gender, sexuality, globalization, and other dimensions of oppression intersect to impact upon the experiences and agency of individuals and groups with health care and social support in Zimbabwe. I analyze data sets from the Demographic and Health Surveys for this country. On the basis of the Africana feminist framework elaborated herein, I argue that maternal and child health cannot be understood unless the socioeconomic, political, and cultural contexts are taken into account. I extend and test the hypothesis that militarism (especially state violence) and hyper-masculinity in Zimbabwe have deleterious effects on family well-being in general, and especially on maternal and child health. This work contributes importantly to the social scientific literature in the social demography of Africa because it adapts the vibrant intellectual work of Africana feminists to a quantitative methodology. Thus the work proposes a new Africana feminist quantitative methodology that could be utilized to study other subject matter. Further, on the basis of this novel methodological approach, this work elicits results that give rise to useful maternal and child health-related policy recommendations.