UF launches landmark Haiti Health Study
By Krishna Vaddiparti, Ph.D., M.P.E., M.S.W.
Communicable diseases such as cholera and malaria have received significant research, prevention and treatment attention in Haiti, but there is little information related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly mental health problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. The dearth of information on NCDs in developing countries such as Haiti cyclically reinforces the lack of surveillance, screening programs, and treatment/prevention efforts.
In order to fill this gap, multi-PIs Dr. Linda Cottler, Dr. Krishna Vaddiparti and Dr. Catherine Striley of the department of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and College of Medicine, in collaboration with PI Dr. Vince DeGennaro of the College of Medicine, have launched the Haiti Health Study. The department of epidemiology joined in UF’s Haiti initiatives in 2012 and worked with the State University of Haiti College of Medicine and Pharmacy to prioritize health needs and to build research capacity. The Haiti Health Study was then initiated with the dual purpose of developing a community cohort for longitudinal study of chronic diseases and social determinants of health and to continue to build research capacity among Haitian clinicians.
The Haiti Health Study is being implemented separately in urban and rural Haiti using identical protocols. Drs. Cottler, Vaddiparti and Striley are implementing this study in the urban area of Carrefour and Dr. DeGenarro in the rural area of Thomonde. The Haiti Health Study estimates the prevalence of NCDs such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks and substance use disorders along with cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and chronic renal insufficiency. The study explores the associated risk factors of NCDs, including social determinants of health, among participants from enumerated households in the two areas. A total of 2,000 households from randomly selected clusters in Carrefour and Thomonde are being proportionately enumerated (67 percent from Rivière Froide, Carrefour and 33 percent from Thomonde).
Drs. Vaddiparti and Striley identified local community health workers (CHWs) and trained them in study protocol, household enumeration, study assessments, interviewing, responsible conduct of research and human subjects protection. CHWs also received training in taking physical measurements and performing blood tests using finger sticks for hemoglobin A1C, cholesterol and serum creatinine.
During the initial study stages, Dr. Vaddiparti surveyed the study site in Carrefour and mapped the anchor points for household enumeration and data collection. The terrain of the urban site is hard to traverse and poses myriad challenges in enumeration of households. Access to the households in this area is only by foot. Dr. Vaddiparti also mobilized local resources and networked with a school in Carrefour that offered space for day to day operations of the study and conducting daily meetings with the CHWs.
Drs. Vaddiparti and Striley have traveled to Haiti alternately to supervise the study team and perform quality control of the data that is collected each day. Doctoral students in the department are getting involved as well. This study is the first of its kind to be conducted in Haiti to identify crucial information on the prevalence and risk factors for NCDs in Haiti. It also provides opportunities for training in research methodology and community engagement for interested faculty and students.
Afsar Ali’s cholera research featured in Hakai magazine
Hakai magazine, a publication that explores science, society and the environment from a coastal perspective, recently featured cholera research by Afsar Ali, Ph.D., a research associate professor in the department of environmental and global health. Ali’s work suggests that cholera is becoming endemic in environmental reservoirs in Haiti. Read the article