The International Health Institute Faculty are engaged in health research and programs around the globe on a range of topics including obesity and chronic disease, HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases, mental health, substance use, women, adolescents and children, access to care and international training partnerships.   

Areas of Focus

  • iALARM: Using Information to Align Services and Link and Retain Men in the HIV Cascade: This project uses local health information systems and activism to improve men’s movement through the HIV treatment cascade in a township outside of Cape Town, South Africa  (Colvin and Lurie, PIs)
  • Migration, Urbanization and Health in a Transition Setting: This study examines the contemporary health transition in South Africa. Our aims are designed to better understand, at the individual level, how a complex pattern of migration and urbanization helps drive the health transition in these settings.  Our study devotes particular attention to how migration and urbanization help determine both risk factors for health conditions and access to care and treatment.  This project is led by Michael White in Sociology; with help from McGarvey and Lurie.
  • Dr. McGarvey has worked in the recent past on schistosomiasis in The Philippines and China with a focus on childhood nutrition and ecology and transmission studies. He has active collaborations in Kenya on breastfeeding interventions with partners at the Africa Population & Health Research Centre with recent support from the USAID PEER program.
  • PrEP Seguro: Antiretrovial-based HIV prevention among men at high risk in Mexico” is testing the acceptability and feasibility of using conditional economic incentives to increase adherence to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among male sex workers in Mexico City. This project supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (R34MH114664) and led by Dr. Omar Galárraga.
  • The “Integrated Modeling for Epidemiologic and Economic Long-Term Outcomes in Africa (inMODELA)” which aims to model the prevalence and incidence of HIV and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), quantity the effects of integrated care, and evaluate its preliminary cost-effectiveness. This work is being conducted under the auspices of the NIH (Fogarty International Center) and PEPFAR (led by Dr. Galárraga and is being conducted in Kenya and South Africa; other Brown collaborators include Lurie and McGarvey)
  • In Kumasi, Ghana, Dr. Galárraga is working collaboratively with the Konfo Anoyke Teaching Hospital / Adolescent HIV Clinic to test the preliminary efficacy and feasibility of group-based conditional economic incentives to increase adherence to ART among adolescents living with HIV.
  • Conditional Economic Incentives for Improving Adolescent Adherence to HIV Treatment is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (1R21AI118393, PI: Galárraga) examines the views of adolescents, parents/guardians, and healthcare providers in Cape Town, South Africa on conditional economic incentives to improve ART adherence among adolescents living with HIV; as well as implement a conjoint analysis to measure optimal attributes and levels of such programs. Drs. Harrison and Kuo are also involved in this project.
  • Integrated Prevention of HIV Risk and Intimate Partner Violence among Adolescents in South Africa: This study develops and tests the acceptability and feasibility of an integrated intervention to prevent HIV and the perpetration of intimate partner violence by young men. This work is led by Dr. Caroline Kuo with Dr. Cathy Matthews at the South African Medical Research Council. 
  • Harambee: Integrated Community-based HIV/NCD Care & Microfinance Groups in Kenya: This study will measure the effectiveness, mechanisms, and cost-effectiveness of an innovative HIV differentiated care model of integrated community based care into existing microfinance groups. Retention in care and sustained viral suppression are critical for ensuring that persons living with HIV live long and healthy lives and for diminishing the possibility of HIV transmission and proliferation of drug-resistant strains of HIV.​This project is led by Dr. Omar Galarraga and  is part of the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program in western Kenya.​
  • Our Family Our Future is a study that examines the efficacy of a resilience oriented family-based preventive intervention for adolescents and their caregivers in HIV-endemic South Africa. The family-based intervention focuses on preventing adolescent onset of depression and HIV/STIs. This work is led by Dr. Caroline Kuo with Drs. Bekker and Stein at the University of Cape Town.  

Next Generation Studies of Obesity in Samoa:  Biological, Environmental and Genetic Pathways 

  • Two NIH research grants support Dr. McGarvey’s Samoan research with colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh: “Integrated, cellular, mouse and human research on a novel missense variant influencing adiposity in Samoans”, which uses cell models, mice, and humans to examine the effects of a genetic variant that makes cells accumulate fate while using less energy. Another current Samoan project “Next Generation Association Studies of Adiposity in Samoans Enhanced by a Samoan-Specific Whole Genome Sequence Reference Panel” focuses on using whole genome sequenced data to better understand the biological pathways and environmental interactions that underlie the high prevalence of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and related health conditions.
  • In a collaboration with Nicola Hawley, PhD of Yale, Dr. McGarvey is developing Samoan-specific fetal growth references and an assessment of their diagnostic ability in order to design early life interventions to reduce the burden of obesity.

Diabetes, Chronicity and Health Literacy in Cape Town, South Africa

 Dr Sara Cooper and Dr Chris Colvin at the University of Cape Town, in collaboration with Dr Steve McGarvey, Dr Mark Lurie, and Dr Abigail Harrison at Brown School of Public Health. 

 This project addresses chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension among women in Cape Town, South Africa.  Based on work with a women’s group, the aim of the project is to develop strategies to improve health literacy and to understand women’s perceptions of chronic illness through the lifecourse.    

  • The South Africa Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) reflects a strategic international partnership between the New England ATTC – one of the longest continuously operating ATTCs in the USA - and the University of Cape Town, the oldest and highest-ranked University in South Africa. The primary focus of this ATTC is to develop and strengthen South Africa’s national workforce to provide evidence-based integrated substance use disorder (SUD), mental health, and HIV care. This work is led by Dr. Caroline Kuo with Dr. Sara Becker (Brown) and Dr. Dan Stein at the University of Cape Town. 
  • Highly Adaptive Epidemic Control Strategies for HIV Prevention in Drug Users. This project aims to determine how combination HIV prevention programs should be prioritized to halt HIV transmission among people who inject drugs (PWID) using a novel agent-based modeling approach. This project is led by Brandon Marshall in Epidemiology with help from Mark Lurie. 
  • SASH: Partnerships for the next generation of HIV social science in South Africa. This project builds on a partnership between the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa and Brown University to enhance infrastructure and research investments at UCT’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine.  Key to these efforts are the training and mentoring of 2 cohorts of SASH fellows, young South African leaders who are learning to apply social science methods to better understand the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. These investments will develop a new generation of rigorously trained HIV social scientists to address research questions of social science and public health importance, and to foster a culture of excellence in social science research on HIV/AIDS. This project is led by Lurie at Brown and Colvin, at UCT; other Brown faculty include Harrison, Kuo, Pellowski, McGarvey, Galarraga, Operario)
  • Brown Moi Partnership for Biostatistics Training in HIV. Expert statistical analysis is fundamental to generating high-quality research that ultimately informs evidence-based practices used to combat HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.  The training program will expand research and curricular capacity in HIV-related biostatistics and advanced quantitative methods at Moi University by providing graduate-level training in biostatistics at Brown and workshops and faculty 

Healthy Moms, Healthy Families

A project aimed at increasing treatment adherence among pregnant and postpartum mothers living with HIV. The goal of this project is to develop and test a bio-behavioral intervention that capitalizes on the transition into motherhood to bolster self-care behaviors. This work is led by Dr. Jennifer Pellowski and is being conducted Cape Town, South Africa. 

Health Needs of First-Generation Adolescents Living with HIV in South Africa

Research on health needs of first generation of adolescents living with HIV in South Africa as they transition to adulthood, with a focus on social and reproductive health needs, barriers and facilitators to adherence for anti-retroviral therapy (ART), and development of interventions to promote a health-enabling environment     

Social Dynamics of Young Women’s HIV and Reproductive Risks in South Africa 

Current research within this topic examines 1) young women's reproductive decision-making and empowerment, and 2) the patterns and dynamics of unintended pregnancy and contraceptive use.  Seed funding from the Population Studies and Training Center was awarded for this project in 2017, and pilot research activities are currently underway.  

Empower-Nudge:  Dual Protection for Young Women in South Africa 

The aim of this pilot project is to test feasibility and acceptability of a lottery-based economic incentive strategy to promote dual protection (simultaneous prevention of HIV/STIs and pregnancy via the simultaneous use of condoms plus effective contraception) among young women in Cape Town, South Africa.

Reproductive Health & HIV/AIDS, MatCH Research Unit, Durban South Africa 

  • Structurally Linking HIV and Family Planning Services: A Service Integration Model
  • Peri-conception Risk and Protective Behaviors among Women and Men
  • NIMH R34, Men's Safer Conception Needs, formative research and intervention development