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Educate, Empower, and Elevate: Team Wins AU’s Global Health Competition Developed innovative approaches to nutritional challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Winning Team stands together at AU's Global health Competition
Winning Team: Ajayi Pickering-Haynes, Brianne Drury, Naudia Porter, Shyheim Snead, Bayadir Mohamed-Osman, Brianna Belo

What would you do if you ran a public health nonprofit organization and just received a $2 million grant to address critical malnutrition issues in Sub-Saharan Africa?

This was the question confronting six competing teams of AU students in AU’s 2018 Intramural Public Health Case Competition, sponsored by the Department of Health Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences. Each team was given the “case” details two weeks before the competition. They had to research the issues, develop strategies, and prepare an action plan.

The teams then presented their plans to four judges: Alexander Justice Moore, Chief Development Officer of DC Central Kitchen; Leslie Koo, Senior Nutrition Advisor in the US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Global Health; Emma Sacks, PhD, Evaluation and Research Lead at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and adjuct faculty member of AU’s Department of Health Studies; and, Lynda Honberg, Captain, US Public Health Service (ret.).

“The event was a great success,” said Jolynn Gardner, director of AU’s Public Health Program. “All seven interdisciplinary teams presented very innovative, well-researched strategies to address the case. The judges commented on how impressed they were with all of the presentations.”

The Winning Team

The winners, the Educate, Empower, and Elevate team, won a $1,000 prize. Members included: 

Shyheim Snead (BA political science ’18)  

Bayadir Mohamed-Osman (BA public health ’18) 

Brianne Drury (BS neuroscience ’18) 

Naudia Porter (BS public health ’18) 

Ajayi Pickering-Haynes (BS biology ’19) 

Brianna Belo (BA public health ’18)

The team’s Educate, Empower, and Elevate initiative addressed four key goals of the Ministry of Health of Sierra Leone: 

  • Facilitate adequate household food security to satisfy the dietary needs of the population; 
  • Promote adoption of appropriate feeding practices of households; 
  • Strengthen preventive measures against nutrition related diseases; and, 
  • Promote operational research and periodic surveys into food and nutrition issues.

The innovative approach would utilize community partnership, outreach, community workshops, and agricultural education. The team based its strategies in social ecological model and recommended partnering with existing health clinics already working with the target population in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

“The winning team's solution stood out: they presented a sustainability plan and evaluated strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. They prepared a logic model, and thoroughly researched a feasible and practical strategy to address the issues of the case,” said Gardner. “Additionally, they based their approach on solid theory. They created a very thorough evaluation plan, which directly reflected the desired outcomes. The winning strategy also reflected the reality of the need to engage the local community in assessment of needs and development and delivery of interventions.”

The Runner-Ups

Gardner praised the work done by all the teams. “The second- and third-place teams also based their strategies on sound theory and feasible goals,” she said. “They presented very creative ideas and expertly utilized evidence to support their approaches. All of the presentations were impressive: the judges actually had a hard time making their final decisions!”

Second Place Team: Loans and Legumes – South Africa ($500 Prize)

Maria Esposito (BS public health ’18) 

Giselle Rodriguez (BA public health ’20) 

Kendell Lincoln (BA public health ’19) 

Hannah Francis (BA international relations ’19) 

Mary Kate Fogarty (undeclared ’21)

Third Place Team: Healthy Family – South Africa ($300 prize)

Maria Kelly (BS public health ’20)

Siena Roberts (BS public health ’20) 

Ashley Franz (BA public relations and communication ’18) 

Ryan Pontone (BS business administration ’20)