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Plan to improve health in Pakistan region devastated by floods earns top honor at Global Health Case Competition

March 07, 2023
by Colin Poitras

For this year’s Global Health Case Competition sponsored by the Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH), student teams were tasked with finding innovative solutions to assist with flood recovery and resilience in Pakistan.

Devastating flooding in Pakistan in 2022 has resulted in a “humanitarian disaster of epic proportions,” according to the country’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman. In the southern province of Sindh, it is estimated a half million people remain displaced due to unsafe drinking water, heightening the incidence of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dengue, and malaria. Children are especially vulnerable.

In this year’s contest, the winning team presented an innovative plan to address the impact of flooding in the city of Thatta in Sindh province by mobilizing women in the community to promote better sanitation and hygiene. Key components of the plan — entitled “Mobilizing Women for SAHAT (Sanitation and Hygiene Across Thatta)” — included increasing the number of lady health visitors (the local community health care workforce), distributing better water purification resources through the Drinkable Book, and using “WaSH Wagons” to deliver services and medical supplies throughout the region.

“SAHAT is a multi-pronged proposal to mitigate the effects of waterborne diseases in post-flood Sindh through female health worker empowerment, health systems strengthening, and novel personal water filtration techniques,” said Aishwarya Kurade, (MPH ’23), leader of the winning team. Kurade said the team members’ backgrounds in medicine, public health, and implementation science allowed it to assess Sindh’s real-world needs from a scientific and data-driven perspective and to advocate for a strategy that made use of local manufacturing, creating a self-sufficient solution to lessen disease prevalence.

Seven teams competed in this year’s event. In addition to Kurade, the winning team included Ally Tran (PA/MPH ’25), Jacob Howard (MD ’25), Wendy Zhang (BS ’25), and Zijian (Ray) Niu (MPH ’24). The interdisciplinary team represented the schools of public health, medicine, and Yale College.

“I’m so proud of my amazing team and our ability to leverage our diverse backgrounds to work on real-world problems,” Tran said. “Watching all of our hard work come to fruition was extremely gratifying. It felt so rewarding to be able to challenge ourselves in a competitive and intellectually stimulating environment. I can’t wait to see where we’ll apply our global health knowledge in the future.”

Said Howard: “We’re thrilled not only to have won but to have had so much joy working with such brilliant and hilarious teammates. I’ve got a renewed confidence that post medical school and training I can not only contribute but find a home in global health.”

The winning team received a cash prize and an invitation to compete in the national Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition on March 11-18, 2023. Last year, the winners of Yale’s internal competition won the national contest.

“We’re super enthused and proud to represent Yale at the international Emory Morningside competition, hopefully repeating Yale’s success last year and bringing back another win,” Kurade said. “We also hope to get the word out about SAHAT and have organizations with their feet on the ground in Pakistan take notice of any potential it may hold.”

The annual YIGH Global Health Case Competition is an opportunity for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to collaborate in developing innovative solutions to a global health problem. During the contest, participating students network with global health experts, meet with colleagues, and connect with students interested in global health from across Yale.

“At its core, the Global Health Case Competition is about preparing future leaders to respond to the complex health challenges facing our world,” said Nükte Göç, Case Competition coordinator. “While the case presented is hypothetical, the skills and knowledge gained through this experience will be invaluable for addressing real-world health crises. By working collaboratively and applying cutting-edge research and techniques to complex problems, the participants in this competition are gaining the tools they will need to address the global health challenges of today and tomorrow.”

The second place project — Bamboo Shelters: Migrating Waterborne Disease Exposure Through Sustainable Housing — was submitted by a team comprised of Evan Bowman (YC ‘26), Julia Ellman (YSPH ‘24), Hannah Karabatsos (YSPH ‘23), Wei Pang (GSAS ‘24), and Catherine Mwai (YSPH ‘23).

The third place projectSindh Sanitation Project (SSP): A Creative flood-resilient solution to promote sanitation in Dadu, Sindh Province — was submitted by Mansoorah Kermani (YSPH ‘24), Brenna Keogh (YSN ‘25), Kelly Chen (YC ‘24), Vanessa Lam (YSPH ‘24), and Chenyi Huang (YSPH ’24).

The judges for this year’s competition were:

  • - Jason Abaluck, professor of economics at the Yale School of Management;
  • - Nikole Allen, associate director for the CT Public Health Fellowship Program, and lecturer of health policy and management at the Yale School of Public Health;
  • - James Boyle, executive director, faculty entrepreneurship & venture development;
  • - Windy Tanner, associate research scientist in epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health
  • - Kristina Talbert-Slagle, assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, associate director at the Yale Institute for Global Health.

Members of the planning committee for this year’s event were: Corrine Liu (YSPH’23), Zoe Che (YSN’24), Charlie Minicucci (YSPH’24), Kailey Seiler (YSPH’24), Tarini Gupta (YSPH’24), Elizabeth Zhang (YSM’25), Polina Ovchinnikova Polina (GSAS’24), and Eva Rest (YSM’28).

Submitted by Colin Poitras on March 08, 2023