“Small” Funding Leads to Big Results in Global Health
Established in 2015, the Hecht Global Health Faculty Network Award was created to provide financial support and encouragement for research and educational projects for junior faculty at Yale. Over the past five years, amounts from $5000 up to $50,000 were awarded for work that has seen exponential results with new partnerships, subsequent larger funding, recognition through honors and other awards, and sustainable programs.
The funding galvanizes activities critical to work supporting global health programs around the world, including efforts to strengthen partnerships, collect and assess data, and develop strategies key to problem solving for a wide range of global health issues. The award has also encouraged young researchers on their career paths. “The idea of supporting early career faculty in their global health careers was very attractive to me,” says Robert Hecht, Ph.D., professor of clinical epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health and President of Pharos Global Health Advisors in Boston. “I am thrilled to be investing in so many talented people who strive to have a positive impact on the health of the world’s population.”
Seed funding through the Hecht award has led to some big results. “Thanks to a $10,000 Hecht award, our team was able to secure another $100,000 from the Jacobs Foundation to pilot a youth-led early childhood education initiative in Colombia,” says Angelica Ponguta. M.P.H., Ph.D., associate research scientist, Yale Child Study Center. "That larger funding was possible because Hecht monies allowed us to explore the feasibility of implementing our ideas, exploring adaptations of already in place programs and establishing partnerships in Colombia.” Since receiving the award in 2018, Ponguta says their team has not only maintained enthusiasm for the program implementation among local government partners, but also has started an exchange among Pakistan and Colombia to promote other areas of research. Most recently, a team from Pakistan and Harvard traveled to Colombia to be trained in a quality assessment and begin the process of cross-cultural adaptation.
According to Michael Skonieczny, deputy director of the Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH) through which the awards are distributed, these funds have grown into a significant source of support for faculty to use on diverse research and project work ranging from stigma reduction and HIV treatment in Russia to trauma and emergency training (pediatric) in Uganda, to improving the training of health workers in India for the prevention and treatment of Hepatitis C infection. “The idea behind this award is to not only help faculty be successful securing larger funding and research grants, but to also promote interdisciplinary and collaborative research across the Yale campus and around the world,” explains Skonieczny.
Long term thinking begins with seed funding
Recent recipients have focused their work on other pressing global health challenges including; addressing the burden of sickle cell anemia in Uganda, heart disease in Pakistan, leveraging community resources to improve health outcomes for Ghana’s cocoa farmers and utilizing mobile technology to integrate mental health into primary care in Nigeria. “In my global health policy research over the past three decades, I have experienced many disappointments, but have also been fortunate to see the positive impact of my work over time, so I truly understand how important even a small investment can be to both short and long-term projects,” says Hecht.
“I am optimistic that research by Yale faculty with this award funding in areas like improving mental health services in Ghana, preventing chronic disease in Uganda, and addressing the health needs of indigenous populations in Latin America, will result in important improvements in the lives of people in low-income settings around the world."