By Matt Hackworth
IMA World Health
new partnership brings students real-world experience while adding to IMA World Health’s scientific depth, so that even more children in Indonesia will avoid the life-long consequences of malnutrition.
As part of their coursework, students in Brigham Young University’s College of Life Sciences need examples of how the study of public health data might be leveraged in a real-world context.
“Students need data, so that the concepts and research tools they learn can be brought to life in a real-world scenario,” IMA Senior Technical Director Mary Linehan said. “At the same time, we need research support to make sure we’re using the data we collect to the fullest possible extent.”
The partnership grew from two strong BYU connections. Former BYU Department of Health Science professor Dr. Kirk Dearden now serves as Senior Advisor for Research and Quality Assurance with IMA in Tanzania. BYU alumnus and IMA Senior Program Officer Scott Torres (Anthropology, 2005) worked with Dearden to connect with BYU’s faculty.
The connection brought BYU faculty to visit IMA operations in Indonesia, where the agency implements the Millennium Challenge Account National Nutrition Communications Campaign. Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, yet poor nutrition and hygiene practices mean around 1 in 3 Indonesian children are stunted. The campaign’s goal is to use media and community-level outreach activities that foster better nutrition and hygiene, in cooperation with Indonesia’s government.
Judging success on the campaign requires extensive data collection and monitoring. BYU researchers were able to visit communities covered by the campaign, while contributing to the analysis of the project’s data.
“Students were able to move beyond the textbook to connect with professionals from IMA to do meaningful work that strengthens their understanding of key concepts, develop research skills and prepare for future full-time work in the field,” BYU associate professor Benjamin Crookston said. “They particularly benefited from presenting their findings (through written and oral reports) to IMA staff from D.C. and Indonesia. IMA staff gave wonderful feedback and students learned immensely from their entire experience.”
The BYU and IMA partnership has resulted in successfully submitting 10 academic papers for publication, with more expected. Meanwhile, IMA and BYU are working to expand the partnership to a similar IMA nutrition project in Tanzania.
“Ensuring adequate nutrition within the window of 1,000 days from conception to age 2 helps kids to develop fully,” Linehan said. “Otherwise, lifelong problems occur that might keep them in poverty or similar tough circumstances. The IMA-BYU partnership helps us to make sure we’re reaching the communities most in need, based on the best science and data possible.”
Founded in 1960, IMA World Health is a global, faith-based nonprofit that works with communities to overcome their public health challenges.