May 8, 2012


Today we are pleased to release the 2012 Duke Global Health Institute Director's Report.  This annual publication highlights the accomplishments of our faculty and students with a focus on the difference their research is making on the lives of people around the world.  From identifying the true causes of fever in East Africa to developing obesity interventions in the US, our faculty are engaged in finding solutions to some of the most pressing global health challenges. 
The latest example of DGHI's growing influence is the release of forecasts and costs of obesity in the US over the next 20 years. The study by DGHI faculty member Eric Finkelstein was released yesterday and has been reported in many major media outlets, including TIME, over the past day. Read about this important study and the costly and deadly implications of failing to address this crisis.   
Finally, we're pleased to launch the new and improved online video gallery. Videos of your favorite global health speakers and programs are now just a few clicks away. 


Until next week,

Geelea Seaford and Everyone at DGHI


Upcoming Events

Keeping Obesity Rates Level Could Save Nearly $550 Billion Over Two Decades               

Researchers have forecast the cost savings and rise in obesity prevalence over the next two decades in a new public health study.

"Keeping obesity rates level could yield a savings of nearly $550 billion in medical expenditures over the next two decades," according to lead author  Eric Finkelstein, associate research professor in the Duke Global Health Institute, as well as deputy director in the Health Services Research Program at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.


The forecasting study also found that 42 percent of the U.S. population could be obese by 2030.


The findings suggest the U.S. healthcare system could be burdened with 32 million more obese people within two decades. Action is needed to keep rates from increasing further, according to the research from Duke University, RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


The study, based on data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and state-level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other organizations, was published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  


Read more

*This study has been featured in dozens of major news outlets, including CNN, The Chicago Tribune, US News & World Report, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and TIME.*

DGHI Highlights Innovation, Research in 2012 Director's Report       

One of Duke University's core values is the notion of putting knowledge in service to society. Nowhere is that value more evident than the Duke Global Health Institute.


Our faculty are bringing a fresh perspective to an array of global problems. From training health workers to keep mothers and babies safe during childbirth to addressing the world's rapidly growing aging population, DGHI faculty are addressing health challenges across the life span. We are also tackling often overlooked issues like global mental health.


The 2012 Director's Report highlights a few of the areas in which our faculty are engaging in innovative research. It also illustrates how a thriving Institute made up of creative and diverse individuals who learn from one another can produce important and innovative discoveries that involve and build the capacity of our international partners while improving the lives of people around the world.


DGHI faculty are developing new biomedical and social-behavioral innovations and testing their efficacy in rigorously controlled trials. They are also evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of existing interventions in real world settings (often referred to as implementation research), carrying out studies to strengthen health systems, and undertaking research to improve policies that bear on successful implementation of health programs. In addition, they are developing new, innovative ways of educating and teaching our students and trainees.


DGHI is filled with change makers, and through their research our faculty and students are using the best science and creative thinking to inform, improve and save lives.


As we look to the future, I encourage you to contribute your time and resources to the work of DGHI. Join us as we seek to eliminate health disparities around the world. You will not be alone. Hundreds of faculty, students, trainees, partners and volunteers are already hard at work.


 -  Michael Merson, founding director of the Duke Global Health Institute



Psychology Builds Efforts to Improve Global Mental Health

* The work of DGHI faculty members Kathleen Sikkema and Gary Bennett is featured in this article by the American Psychological Association.*


Among the psychologists applying their talents to AIDS prevention is Kathleen Sikkema, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Duke Global Health Institute. Sikkema, who studies HIV prevention and mental health in South Africa and other developing nations, argues that mental health treatment should be a key element in any HIV prevention program (AIDS and Behavior, 2010). After all, she says, researchers have compiled strong evidence of the link between HIV transmission risk and mental health. A person with a poor mental health status is more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors and less likely to adhere to drug treatment protocols that could minimize the spread of the disease.


To address these issues, Sikkema and her colleagues are developing and testing a number of HIV interventions in South Africa and elsewhere. One project promotes adaptive coping among HIV-positive men and women with a history of childhood sexual abuse. Another teaches coping skills to young children of HIV-positive mothers, while a third aims to reduce risky behavior among women who drink alcohol in informal drinking establishments where gender-based violence is prevalent. With these projects, she and her colleagues hope to identify effective techniques to ultimately reduce the spread of HIV.


With primary risk factors such as poor diet, tobacco use and inactivity, those diseases have a clear behavioral component. And that's where psychologists like Gary Bennett, also at the Duke Global Health Institute, can help. Bennett has developed obesity interventions in the United States, and is now working to adapt some of those successful interventions for China. It's a good place to start. "There are more than 1.5 billion overweight people in the world, and at least a quarter of them are in China," he says.


Addressing a Stigmatized Health Issue Among Bhutanese Refugees 

Since 1991, more than one-sixth of Bhutan's people have sought asylum in the US, Nepal, India and other parts of the globe. Elise Nelson and Tulsi Patel, two graduating students from DGHI's Master of Science in Global Health program, explored the mental health of these individuals who are increasingly at a higher risk for developing a mental illness.

The graduate-level research comes at a time when there is growing concern about access to and availability and quality of mental health services for refugees.

"By 2030, mental disorders will likely be one of the top three issues concerning the global disabilities attributed to a disorder," said Patel. "Our goal was to shine light on the factors that can be addressed before refugees are settled into the camps, or in another country, that may help prevent the mental health problems they are otherwise likely to face."

Patel and Nelson worked on separate but complementary research projects. Patel's research focused on the ways in which traditional social class systems, like the caste system, affect the mental health of individuals. People of a lower caste seemed to be most affected in terms of mental health, which might reflect a certain loyalty to the social system and the prevalence of discrimination and its effect on mental health.


"There is an unusually high rate of suicides in the Bhutanese refugee camps, and more importantly, among refugees who have relocated," said Patel. "Those who commit suicide are usually younger and have grown up in these refugee camps."  


Refugee families seem to experience more anxiety about their life post-resettlement, and hope they won't be split apart from one another.  


Read more  

More Headlines 
In the Media

Duke Cancer Institute Names Deputy Director


Steven R. Patierno, Ph.D., has been named Deputy Director of the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI). In this role, Patierno will serve as the DCI's senior administrator and scientific and operational leader across a broad spectrum of activities including Cancer Control, Health Equities and Health Disparities, Global Health, Survivorship, Informatics, and Cancer Policy.



Patierno's record of achievement with community outreach, public policy, disparities research, cancer survivorship, environmental carcinogenesis and patient navigation will create unprecedented opportunities at the DCI for program development and scientific excellence.


Patierno most recently served as Executive Director of the George Washington Cancer Institute and as Director of the Molecular and Cellular Oncology Program at George Washington University Medical Center. He is the Vivian Gill Distinguished Professor of Oncology and was Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, Genetics and Urology in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He was also Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health, and Global Health in the School of Public Health and Health Services. He is founding Director of the GW Molecular and Cellular Oncology PhD Program.


An internationally recognized researcher, Patierno is a leading expert in cancer causation and carcinogenesis. His research laboratory, which focuses on lung, prostate, breast, and skin cancers, has made major contributions to our understanding of the role of genetic damage in the balance of cell death and survival. In addition, his laboratory has explored the mechanisms of development of cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy and the development of bio-therapeutics that control the metastatic spread of cancer.


Global Health Opportunities   


Job Opportunity

Rwanda Human Resources for Health: Physicians in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics     


Upcoming Conference

2012 International AIDS Conference, July 22-27, Washington D.C.



2012 Team-Based Learning Course Design Fellows - due May 18     

NIMHD Community-Based Participatory Research for Reducing Health Disparities: Planning (R24) - due May 27, June 27   

Duke University/Indian Institute of Management Udaipur Collaborative RFP  - due May 30  


The Duke Global Health Institute was created in 2006 to address health disparities around the world. It is one of seven university-wide interdisciplinary institutes at Duke. Learn more.
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