2020 Update: 2019-2021 RELIGHT Research Groups
The three RELIGHT – Research ExceLlence and Innovation in Global HealTh research groups have been working hard over the past two years to advance their global health agendas. Take a look into their recent activities and their plans for the last year of the funding program.
The three following groups were awarded RELIGHT funding to assist with advancing their global health agenda through project development support from CGH for the 2019-2021 period- 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. Every year we have shared their progress and accomplishments thus far, and below outlines each group’s 2020 reports.
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 are the prevention of disease and health care system strengthening, in addition to societal empowerment and digital literacy. In 2020, PI Josef Noll, Co-PI Christine Holst, Co-PI Wisam Mansour, Britt Nakstad, Kristian Rødland and Cynthia Wangamati have all contributed significantly to the progress of the project.
Activities in 2020
In 2020, the team came together in June and December for workshops. These workshops were a great arena for going through the scripts for the animation in progress. In addition to this, the group discussed how digital health promotion can be strengthened at the UiO, and how it is possible to facilitate translation of the animations, so that they can be used globally in local languages took place.
Status: animation creation
- Breastfeeding animation – finalized and complete in English and Setswana.
- Sexual violence – waiting for feedback from the Ministry of Health and NGOs in Kenya. The conversion of the script into animation will be take place in 2021.
- AMR – a draft is in revision and conversion of the script into animation is expected in early 2021.
CGH has established a Digital Health Promotion webpage with affiliated videos. Soon, it can be expected the breastfeeding video will be published there as well. The ProDHP team also emphasizes the importance of sharing videos via mobile phones through WhatsApp, for example and the resources it can provide NGOs if shared in their channels. Through these initial videos the research group has demonstrated how easy it is to create DHP on selected topics and invite for a worldwide collaboration on the topic. DHP has been a topic of high attention worldwide. Besides the scientific contributions, other efforts include conferences. The three most notable events include:
- Health in the Digital World, where Christine Host and Josef Noll presented “Health in the Digital World” as seen from a Nordic View. The event was organized as part of the Lancet & Financial Times Commission, "Governing health futures 2030: Growing up in a digital world."
- The Global Governance Summit in June 2020, where Josef Noll was invited to contribute to the session on “Digital Health and Community Involvement for Resilient Health Systems.”
- The Digital Health Platforms event organized with GIZ, politicians, health specialists and NGOs in April 2020, where experiences from CGH supported projects, e.g. the “Digital Inclusion” (DigI Project). As a result of the participation in the Digital Health Platforms event, the group was asked to prepare a summary (below) of the state-of-the-art, available here.
Ongoing and 2021 planned activities
The planned work for 2021 includes the finalization of the sexual violence and AMR videos, in addition to development of a climate and maternal/newborn health video. This will be an animation with advice to mothers on what to do to avoid overheating and dehydration during extreme heat in sub-Saharan Africa. All team members are working on identifying potential partners in their field(s). Discussions about including DHP as one of the topics at the CGH will hopefully result in ProDHP produced animations being featured contributing to more visibility and results.
ProDHP is progressing according to plan and the DHP videos, as envisaged in the project description, have been prepared in accordance with the project’s plan. Results in the field show an extraordinary effect of the animated videos in terms of attention and knowledge uptake. The collaboration across UiO, enabled through the Center for Global Health, has reached high visibility and attention out in the world. The visibility is reflected in the invitations to high-level events, e.g. the Lancet Commission on Digital Health. Furthermore, UiO’s special purpose vehicle “Basic Internet Foundation” for digital inclusion is recognized worldwide and is invited to connect schools in rural Tanzania and promote digital health.
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 was 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 also initiated a follow-up study and the first half has already been completed. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the group is awaiting the possibility to resume fieldwork to complete the second half of the follow-up study. Given the current situation to happen later in the second half of 2021, at the earliest.
The group has, however, been able to analyze the anthropometric and body composition data collected in the first phase and are currently preparing the datasets for publication.
The CHNUDEV Project has contributed to publishing three articles (listed) with two other manuscripts currently in review by journals.
- Aflatoxins: Occurrence, exposure, and binding to lactobacillus species from the gut microbiota of rural Ugandan children
- No associations between microbiota signaling substances and cognitive, language and motor development among three-year-old rural Ugandan children
- The association of urine markers of iodine intake with development and growth among children in rural Uganda: a secondary analysis of a randomised education trial
One master’s student (Institute of Health and Society, UiO) and one PhD student (Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, UiO) graduated based on project and its data.
In addition to RELIGHT, the research group has been granted funding from the Throne Holst
Foundation for 2020.
Project: The Politics of Global Health Security
Since receiving the RELIGHT allocation in 2019, the Global Health Politics Research Group at the Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM) at UiO has used this support to strengthen capacity in the area of global health security, contributing to salary support (frikjøp) and activities. Project collaborator Sonja Kittelsen worked 10% from January until May 2020 with support from RELIGHT funding to develop proposals. Felix Stein has been recruited as a postdoctoral fellow with new project funding and Aurelia Neumark has joined the group as research assistant.
Project development and funding
PANPREP Project - The project officially started September 1, 2020 and will last for three years. Data collection is already underway, four project meetings have been held to date, and a first international advisory board meeting was convened in November 2020.
SMARTCOVID Project - In May 2020, the group also received funding under the Research Council of Norway’s COVID-19 emergency call for the project, “The Smartphone Pandemic: mobile technologies and data in the COVID-19 response (SMARTCOVID).” This two-year project will map the rapid introduction of new smartphone technologies and data during the COVID-19 pandemic, explore global norms of ownership and use of digital data and look at how new forms of digital surveillance 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. In addition to the project members, we have awarded a one-year stipend to a UiO Masters student, who will be writing his thesis on Tawain’s response to COVID-19, with a particular focus on mobile applications.
The RELIGHT support has also contributed to the research group’s ability to attain SAMEVAL network support funding of NOK 1,5 million from the Norwegian Research Council in 2020, to support further project development, capacity strengthening and two national PhD courses in 2022 and 2023 related to the theme of global health security/pandemic preparedness.
The team has organized several public events relating to the politics of global health security, including a panel discussion on the political determinants of health in light of COVID-19 at the virtual Fifth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, which took place virtually in lieu of Dubai in November 2020, and was attended by over 80 delegates. As part of the Independent Panel on Global Governance for Health, the team co-organized a webinar series Pandemics in an Unequal World.
Katerini Storeng, Antoine de Bengyand Sonja Kittelsen organized a 5-credit master’s course, SUM4503 – Preventing Pandemics: Security, Development and Global Governance Challenges, which was held digitally from 4-8 May 2020. As part of the course, they organized a virtual Global Health Unpacked seminar with Frode Forland from the National Public Health Institute.
Sonja Kittelsen co-authored the paper ‘Cuba and Global Health Security’ with Clare Wenham from the LSE, Katerini Storeng and Antoine de Bengy Puyvallée submitted a revised version of an article on digital technologies in the COVID-19 response to Global Public Health in December 2020 after receiving positive feedback on the first draft from the editors and are working on an article based on initial research from the PANPREP project.
In September 2019, Antoine was awarded PhD funding to begin his project, ‘The politics of epidemic response: new actors in global health security.’ This project ties in with the team’s broader research agenda on public-private partnerships for global health security and is incorporated into the aforementioned PANPREP project.
Throughout 2020, the team has participated actively in public debate, as commentators on Urix, Nyhetsmorgen, TV2 and NRK among other media outlets. On the basis of their commentary on COVID-19, Antoine de Bengy Puyvallée and Katerini Storeng have been commissioned to write a regular column for Morgenbladet and have contributed to interviews and articles in both national and international media as well as having an active social media presence. Team members have also contributed to podcasts including Pandemipodden and Universitetsplassen. For more details including a list of all the interviews our team members have participated in, see here.
The research group continues to host the Network for Social Sciences in Norwegian Global Health Research, which has around 200 members. The group a consultation among the members in October 2020 to receive input into the Norwegian Research Council new global health research initiative priorities. Team members maintain an active presence on social media, participating in international debates pertaining to global health security and the pandemic response