Meaningful Change in India

Meaningful Change in India

Although much of Bhramar Mukherjee’s research centers around genetic-environmental interactions, a recent project takes a more sociocultural focus. “I have always struggled with finding true social relevance in my work in biostatistics,” says the U-M SPH professor of biostatistics and epidemiology.

Mukherjee is especially aware of the maternal and child health burdens that face underserved populations in her native India, particularly in rural areas where access to physician care is extremely limited. The routine checkup that most Americans take for granted, she says, is virtually nonexistent in parts of India.

To address the problem, Mukherjee developed a study to test the feasibility of using community health workers to screen pregnant women and young children for risk factors and to direct those who need it to appropriate medical care. She received funding for the study from the Trehan Foundation and the MCubed Diamond Program, which pairs donors with U-M research projects, and launched the study in 2015.

To date it’s been a success. Women are eager to participate and to get care they may not otherwise have been comfortable seeking. This kind of empowerment, Mukherjee says, is a key goal of the project. But she and her team have found that the community health workers, too, are newly empowered. Although these women were recruited to serve as cultural liaisons, the health workers now say they have a larger purpose within their home communities, and they regard the help they’re providing as important. Mukherjee and her team hope to continue forging a road into meaningful change in India through this practical and biostatistical approach. 

—Sydney Egan

Best Methods: StatCore

Launched in 2015, and led by SPH Professors Yi Li and Bhramar Mukherjee, a new SPH initiative called Global StatCore aims to provide biostatistics education and support to institutions across the globe, especially those lacking the depth of statistical knowledge necessary to reach their full potential in public health research.

Even countries traditionally strong in math and science may be deficient in biostatistical expertise, say Li and Mukherjee. StatCore is designed to address such deficiencies by providing teaching modules recorded on DVD and supplemented by on-site instruction by from SPH faculty. The hope is that StatCore will act as a catalyst, building intellectual resources and training researchers who will in turn train others. By teaching people “not to settle” but rather to “seek the best method out there,” Mukherjee says, “global health research can truly benefit.” Funding to launch the program came from the SPH Dean’s Office, but eventually StatCore will charge for services after providing an initial free consultation.

—Sydney Egan