Updates from the RELIGHT Research Groups

The three RELIGHT – Research ExceLlence and Innovation in Global HealTh research groups have been working hard over the past year to advance their global health agendas. Take a look into their recent activities and their plans moving forward.

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The RELIGHT advisory board, an external and international board set up by the Centre for Global Health (CGH) at the University of Oslo (UiO), reviewed the applications for the first RELIGHT call early last year. The three following groups gained the opportunity to advance their global health agenda through project development support from CGH for the next three years - The Digital Health Promotion in the Global South project led by Josef Noll, The Child, Nutrition and Development (CHNUDEV) project led by Per Ole Iversen, and The Politics of Global health Security project led by Katerini Storeng.

Project: Digital Health Promotion in the Global South – (ProDHP)

The ProDHP project is addressing digital health promotion (DHP) and aims to contribute to better health outcomes in local global south societies. The main outcomes of DHP is the prevention of disease and health care system strengthening, in addition to societal empowerment and digital literacy.

After the RELIGHT funding was received, team leader, Josef Noll and co-PI, Christine Holst conducted introductory meetings with all team members including Wisam Mansour, Ernst Kristian Rødland and Cynthia Wagmati. It was decided the group would work on the key messages independently, before beginning to develop animations in 2020. In September 2019, Christine Holst presented ProDHP at the CGH’s organized Global Health Inspiration Days in Oslo. Her presentation included an introduction of the team, rationale for DHP and the planned activities for the research project. During this seminar, the ProDHP group came in contact with Professor Britt Nakstad, CGH signatory team leader for Pediatrics. She expressed the urgent need for a short and clear breastfeeding animation for clinical use in Botswana. During this first phase of ProDHP, the group decided to partner with the Nordic Media Team to develop a pilot in order to meet the needs of a breastfeeding animation for clinical use in Botswana. The animation is currently in production and the first draft looks very promising. The research group with experience from the DigI-project, have earlier produced animations on HIV, TB, Taenia solium cysticercosis/taeniosis (TSTC) and Anthrax (all in Tanzanian Swahili and English language). The team has also recently finalized a COVID-19 animation.


For 2020, the research group will be working on animations for antimicrobial resistance and sexual violence. This will be the main focus for the first half of 2020. With the new partner, the group also plans to take onboard more small-scale animations, to prove the methodology being effective. Further, review of ongoing DHP activities aimed at a global south audience at the University of Oslo and collaborating institutions, is ongoing.

Project: The Child, Nutrition and Development (CHNUDEV)

The Child, Nutrition and Development (CHNUDEV) project led by Per Ole Iversen, originates from a randomized trial conducted among mothers and their small children (6-8 months) in rural Uganda in 2013-14. The main aim of this project is to test if maternal education encompassing aspects of nutrition, hygiene and stimulation would improve child growth and development outcomes. Since receiving RELIGHT funds, the research group has been in the process of performing a follow-up study, as the children are about to start school (7-8 years), and the long-term goal is to monitor them again when they reach adulthood. The first half of the planned follow-up study of the mother/child pairs (children now at age of school-start) has been completed and the plan is to continue with the next half of this follow-up study during 2020-21.

Oral examination; the CHNUDEV project in Uganda, Photo by: Prudence Atukunda

The research group has also been quite busy with dissemination activities for this project. This includes five published articles:

A student from Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda has completed a master’s program based on the data of this project. Furthermore, the CHNUDEV research group has participated in four conferences - 6th National Microbiota Conference, Oslo, Norway (oral communication), 7th MUHAS conference, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (poster presentation), 10th Global Health Day, Trondheim, Norway (oral communication) and the CGH’s 2019 Global Health Inspiration Days, Oslo, Norway (presentation). The project won the annual prize for the best poster-presentation at the Department of Nutrition, IMB, University of Oslo, in 2019. Lastly, in addition to the RELIGHT funding, this project has been granted funding from the Throne Holst Foundation for 2019.

Project: The Politics of Global Health Security

The Politics of Global Health Security project, led by Katerini Storeng and team members, Antoine de Bengy Puyvallée, Sonja Kittelsen and Unni Gopinathan have been making incredible progress since receiving RELIGHT funds. Last week, the group was granted funds from the Research Council of Norway’s COVID-19 Emergency Call for research on the use of new digital technology during the pandemic. Katerini will lead the project, The Smartphone Pandemic, which will launch July 1st, 2020 in collaboration with project partners at the New School and Kings College London and the University of Makeni in Sierra Leone. The new project will map the rapid introduction of new digital technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, explore global norms of ownership and use of digital data and look at how new forms of digital surveillance can affect trust between governments and citizens in different contexts. It will also examine the rise of technology companies as important political actors in the COVID-19 response. The group has also been awarded funding through the Norwegian Research Council’s SAMRISK programme to study public-private partnerships in Pandemic preparedness and response, focusing on Norway. This includes Antoine’s PhD research ‘The politics of epidemic response: New actors in global health security.’

Just this month, the group conducted a 5-credit digital Masters course, SUM4503 – Preventing Pandemics: Security, Development and Global Governance Challenges highlighting the examples from past outbreaks like Ebola and the current pandemic to provide insights into the tensions between humanitarian efforts, domestic security motivations and neo-colonial intervention. The course also explored the different motivations, resources and priorities of involved actors, and their role in the current COVID-19 response.

The group provided a presentation of their project during the CGH’s 2019 Global Health Inspiration Days in Oslo. The group has published a number of blogs, participated in media interviews and Sonja just published a commentary in BMJ Global Health on Cuba and Global Health Security, co-written with Clare Wenham from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Moving forward the group plans to continue such activities by contributing directly to RELIGHT aims by increasing the competence, capacity, visibility and research output of the Politics in Global Health Security research team.

The RELIGHT program, supported by the Faculty of Medicine at UiO, facilitated by CGH, aims to assist established research groups in becoming global leaders in their fields, reaching the status of ‘research and innovation excellence. The assistance given will be through seed funding directed at positioning external funding applications. The next RELIGHT call will be in 2021 and three groups will each receive 300.000 NOK for each 3-year period, 100 000 NOK per year over 3 years (2022-2024). More information about RELIGHT can be found here.

By Gabriella Rodriguez
Published May 19, 2020 1:09 PM - Last modified May 10, 2021 1:29 PM