Director’s Blog February 2022

Director’s Blog February 2022

The new year often inspires us to reflect on our goals and priorities, an endeavor supported by a series of opportunities to recognize, learn about and celebrate different events and people. January was Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, including International Women’s Day on March 8. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreaktheBias, offering to challenge various the biases people face around the world, including gender and race. The subjects explored over these months are all central to the work of the Center, and among other things, illustrate the impact of marginalization and discrimination on health outcomes. The intersection of race, gender and reproductive health is perhaps best shown by the experience of Henrietta Lacks, the Black woman whose cervical cancer cells gave rise to the immortal “HeLa” cell line. HeLa cells have played an extraordinary role in scientific research, underlying multiple Nobel Prize-winning discoveries and enabling medical advances for...
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Faculty Spotlight: An Interview with Dr. Sumedha Ariely

Dr. Sumedha Gupta Ariely is an associate Professor in the Global Health department and teaches courses such as Research methods in Global Health (GLHLTH371) and Global Health Ethics (GLHLTH373). She is also a faculty lead for Duke Global Health Institute’s Durham Research and Service work, demonstrating her commitment to the “Local-is-Global” approach in global health endeavors. She has mentored a variety of undergraduate and graduate students through Bass Connections and DukeEngage projects. In her research, she investigates maternal, child, and adolescent health across international contexts. Notable, she has worked extensively with Uganda, Kenya, and India across her time at Duke. Using her background in developmental psychology, she examines how cultural and social factors relate to a community’s health behaviors and outcomes. To explore more of Dr. Ariely’s revolutionary work, I interviewed her on her experiences and initiatives in the global health field during her time at Duke to see how they have informed her research. 1. You’ve led initiatives in the “Global Is...
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Comfort Women?

Every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, people gather around to demand the Japanese government formally apologize for their forced sexual slavery system during World War II. Even though it has been over 20 years of Koreans raising this issue, the Japanese government has only tried to offer monetary compensation, and has not issued an official apology. The Asian Women’s Fund estimates the number of victims ranges from 50,000 to a quarter million, but the number has remained vague due to incomplete data archives and stigma among victims after the war (1). A few survivors of this sexual slavery system have spoken in front of global leaders to raise awareness: one of them, Hak-sun Kim, delivered her first testimony in 1991. During this testimony, Kim said that when she was seventeen, she was forcibly sent to the Japanese military’s comfort station (a sexual slavery station) in China (2). She resisted, but soldiers threatened and kicked her to be...
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Contraceptive Calendar

Contraceptive Calendar

Our team seeks to understand how conflict impacts contraceptive use using data from Sub-Saharan African countries. More specifically, we are looking at trends in contraceptive use for women in the time preceding, during, and following the conflict period--to do so, we are utilizing geocoded data for sub-Saharan Africa from the Uppsala Conflict Dataset and contraceptive calendar data from the Demographic and Health Surveys. This research has important implications for women’s health: firstly, it can help us understand the demographic consequences of conflict on family planning, births, and outcomes, and secondly, it can help inform policy interventions that can target and improve reproductive health in humanitarian settings. We are personally interested in this project because, collectively, our team is passionate about understanding health inequities and empowering women by leveraging policy as a tool. Participation in this project can help to provide us a foundational understanding of how conflict interacts with women’s reproductive autonomy in a way that gives us independent research...
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Natural Language Processing Group

We are the Natural Language Processing group from the Big Data for Reproductive Health Bass Connections team. Our names are Lynne Wang, Foxx Hart, Alexandra Lawrence, and Neha Shrishail. Currently, we are working through “Text Mining with R” to gain a better understanding of text mining, sentiment analysis, and topic modeling. Additionally, we are examining the stigma summary scale as well as other texts related to stigma to form a solid foundation on the resources at hand. We are interested in this project for the opportunity to learn new technical and project management skills, as well as dive deeper into the emerging interdisciplinary space between quantitative machine learning and qualitative social science research. We’re especially excited to apply these methods to an important area in global reproductive health. At the end of our research, we hope to become proficient in using natural language processing and gain a better understanding of how it can be applied to future projects....
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Analyzing access to modern contraception and understanding reproductive rights among women with intellectual and developmental disabilities in North Carolina: A mixed methods study

The reproductive health needs of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) have been historically overlooked. Despite having an equal or greater chance of pregnancy, women with IDDs face significant barriers to accessing contraception. Publicly available survey data exclude individuals who live in institutional settings or require communication assistance, and little is known about the landscape of sexual and reproductive health services within residential facilities. To address these gaps, this Bass Connections Student Research Award project aims to analyze differences in access to and use of contraceptive services among women of reproductive age in North Carolina, as well as understand offerings, needs, facilitators, and barriers relating to contraception within public and private residential facilities. Linear regression and clustering techniques will be applied to a robust Medicaid claims dataset to evaluate contraceptive insertion, surveillance, and removal by disability status. In addition, in-depth interviews will be conducted with administrators, clinicians, and social workers at six residential facilities in North Carolina. The final...
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Student Advisory Board Update

The Student Advisory Board aims to increase engagement with the Center by fostering academic collaboration and advocacy efforts. Now in its third year, the SAB has grown to encompass undergraduates and graduate students across Duke. Over the past few years, student work has been featured on the Center's website as well as newsletters. Students have also helped bring in multiple speakers from various backgrounds, including researchers and SRH advocacy organizations. This year, the Student Advisory Board consists of the Communications Working Group and the Events Working Group. I'm pleased to be working with Angela and Lauren as they are leading both of these groups and are planning incredible ways for students to get more involved with the Center. Hear more about the work they are doing below. From Angela Huang, the Communications Working Group Chair: The Student Advisory Board Communications Committee, made up of both undergraduate and post-graduate students, sets out to form connections between the Duke student populace with the Center for...
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Director’s Blog October 2021

Director’s Blog October 2021

In my last blog, written as we were celebrating graduation and Covid numbers were falling, I challenged readers to think about lessons from the pandemic and plan for a new and improved post-pandemic world. In retrospect, that optimism was clearly a little premature. As the Delta variant swept through the country, it not only changed the timeline on any return to “normalcy,” it changed expectations that there would be a post-Covid world. The challenge became learning to live and thrive in a world with Covid. As classes are in full swing, and we’ve already passed the halfway mark for the semester, Duke students, staff and faculty have readily embraced the measures that allow us to teach and learn in person: masks, vaccinations and testing. Midterms are over, basketball is coming back to Cameron in a way that keeps everyone safe and crazy, and we are seeing more in person events that bring people together. One event that brought together large numbers...
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How did COVID-19 influence telehealth abortion?

COVID-19 impacted our lives a lot. Working from home became common sense, losing a dear family member and making hospital appointments became incredibly difficult. In Sexual Reproductive Health, Marie Stopes International (MSI) expected that up to 9.5 million females would lose access to contraception and safe abortion services due to COVID. It could lead to 2.7 million unsafe abortions and more than 10,000 pregnancy-related deaths [1]. Inspired by the guest lecture of Kelly Hunter, a DGHI Doctoral Scholar and PhD candidate in Political Science, about her research on the impact of the Global Gag Rule and COVID-19 on women’s sexual and reproductive health in Kenya [2], I want to look at how COVID-19 and development of telemedicine impacted sexual and reproductive health in high-income countries, such as the United States and Great Britain. By its WHO definition, telemedicine utilises internet and communication technology (ICT) in healthcare practice [3]. A wide array of information collected through various technologies helps decrease the cost...
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Note from Lauren Mitchell, Director of the Working Group for Sexual and Reproductive Health

During the Spring 2021 semester, the Working Group for Sexual and Reproductive Health grew its community of over 115 students, researchers, and advocates working across the SRH field through programming events, the Mentorship Program, and email newsletters. After being founded in the fall of 2019 by Saumya Sao, a Duke 2020 graduate, its goals of building a collaborative community, fostering relationships, and eliminating barriers to entry into SRH research for students were temporarily put on hold due to COVID-19. However, on March 19, the Working Group hosted 13 speakers at a virtual SRH Research Symposium, highlighting the work being done in the Triangle area and connecting students to potential opportunities for engagement. Speakers presented their current research across four themed areas—Digital Health and Data Science, Mental Health, Family Planning, and Innovations in HIV Care—and shared insight on how students can engage with the SRH field, both at Duke and beyond. Additionally, the SRH Advocacy Panel event on April 16 featured...
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