Category Archives: Malaria

Episode 53: Bill Heisel On IHME’s Global Engagement

Who’s doing a great job of collecting health data and translating it into engaging public health multimedia? For many in global health, the clear leader is the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Indeed, on my first day at work at IVAC, everyone was throwing around the IHME acronym around like it was PBnJ and definitely a lol moment if you didn’t know what it stood for. I quickly found out why and had to speak to someone in the center of creation and engagement. Our latest podcast features Bill Heisel, Director of Global Engagement at IHME (which is much, much bigger that I had originally thought) and a must know for all public health lovers.

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New Podcast! Bill Moss: Global Disease Epidemiologist


We travel across the globe (metaphorically speaking) to learn about HIV, malaria, and measles in our latest podcast with Bill Moss, epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins. Bill tells us about his most captivating and proud moments in his research (and medical) career spanning over Zambia, Baltimore, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India and New York City. Learn about the work that ultimately lead to policy changes by the WHO based on his co-infection model of HIV and measles. Please check out our website for show links at and follow us on Twitter (PHUpodcast) and Facebook.

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Faites attention! La route n’es pas facile: Difficulties in communicating and performing research in Africa

Recently we’ve been showing you how easy it is for messages to be confused when writers knowingly and unknowingly contort facts when translating scientific journal articles to popular media headlines.

Now imagine that you are a scientist who wants to help people in Africa who are suffering from malaria. You successfully procure the funding to move there, install a research program to screen kids for malaria parasites, do some basic science experiments to study transmission and give parasite positive children anti-malaria medicine. You are pleased with how everyone will benefit from this exchange.  However, once you get there, you realize that the people speak a different language than you (or even a different dialect of the same language that is hard to understand). How can you communicate while you are there?  Ok, you get a translator. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately you realize that at least half of the locals mistrust you because they believe that taking blood is a form of black magic that will steal your soul. The other half mistrust you because the last time researchers came and convinced them to give blood with the promise of aid, these foreigners departed a week later, never to be heard from again. There was absolutely no benefit.

Imagine that after all of your hard work and good intentions, only 10% of the kids enroll in your project to give them medicine.

This is the situation that Dr. Isabelle Morlais and other French colleagues encountered when they began their anti-malaria campaign in the rural schools surrounding Yaoundé, Cameroon. Morlais and colleagues arrived in Yaoundé at OCEAC/IRD (a French research organization focusing on battling endemic diseases in Africa) in order to screen children and give medicine to malaria positive cases. Afterwards, they then do many tests on the blood for use in basic science research, i.e. they feed the blood to Anopheline mosquitoes via a membrane feeding assay and then do a range of tests on the mosquitoes (oocyst counts, microbiota studies) to study how the parasite is transmitted and how they can stop it. They basically do everything we do in our insectary at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, but with field mosquitoes and field parasites. The combination of being able to give malaria positive children medication and also conducting basic science research on the population at risk gives powerful results and knowledge that can’t be imitated in the lab.

Morlais’ success grew over time as the locals saw that Morlais’ team worked with the local and very familiar hospital workers. More importantly, they witnessed Morlais’ team return every six months to do the same thing: screen for parasites and then give the kids medicine. This long term and consistent relationship gave the villagers confidence in the end goals of the program. Morlais now has 100% enrollment in the program.

I have quickly learned that the key to success here in Yaoundé has been the building of long term trust and cooperation between foreign researchers and the local population. The IRD employs both French and Cameroonian researchers alike and knows the importance of having input and cooperation from the locals. Too often people see foreign researchers come for a week, take blood or mosquitoes, and then leave—never to be heard from again. The locals never see any benefit from the research and have no idea what happens to their blood once it is collected. This safari science creates mistrust and has to be avoided. Let us all learn from Morlais’ successful program and build trust in our public health interventions.

Nobels, Impersonations, & Talking Science on the Colbert Report: Interview 2 with Peter Agre

“Nobels, Impersonations, & Talking Science on the Colbert Report.” Interview 2 with Dr. Peter Agre, 2003 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Dr. Agre is the head of the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and you can check out a short biography here. Check out Peter on the Colbert Report here. I think he held his own really well against Colbert!

In this episode, Peter relives the day he won the Nobel followed by a discussion on mentors, the Colbert Report and talking religion/science with the public, and why more scientists should be involved in politics. Peter also gives Nina some valuable life advice at the end.

Access the podcast here. Click to listen, right click to download.

peter agre and me

Great Science Writing, Mentors, & Malaria Vaccines: News Analysis 2

Hello All! In case you missed this on iTunes, we recorded our second News Analysis episode with Nick, Nina and guest Christine Santos–recent graduate from the Masters of Health Science program at JHSPH. Christine and Nina had such a great (and lengthy) discussion on her thesis research regarding the malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S/AS01 that we broke up the episode into three parts for your listening convenience. Click on the underlined “Part” to listen, right click to download.

Part 1  Nick, Nina, and guest Christine Santos discuss what makes for great science writing and how scientists should talk about science with the public, using vaccines as an example.

Part 2  Nina and guest Christine Santos discuss Nina’s latest article on the importance of mentors & communication within science departments, their role models, and thoughts on Expert Panel 2 regarding global malaria control programs and funding.

Part 3  Guest Christine Santos and Nina talk about the malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS01, the mixed results from the clinical trial data in Africa, and the future of malaria vaccines.

Malaria, Safari Science, & Global Public Health Spending


Rhoel Dinglasan & Clive Shiff
Rhoel Dinglasan & Clive Shiff, Malaria Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (1)

We are pleased to announce Expert Panel #2:
“Malaria, Safari Science, & Global Health Spending” recorded on  May 3, 2013. Guest experts Drs. Clive Shiff (JHMRI), Rhoel Dinglasan (JHMRI), & Jim Webb (Colby College) share diverse perspectives on why malaria is so hard to control.

To listen to the podcast, right click to download or click to stream. Also available on iTunes here.

Nina for one is new to the International & Global Health fields. If you are in the same boat, the following links will be helpful to understand the discussion. An article on vertical versus horizontal public health programs is also in the works.

Malaria and other global infectious diseases: why should we care? by Sean Murphy
Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute: Life Cycle of The Malaria Parasite & links to researchers at JHMRI
Dr. Rhoel Dinglasan’s Lab Website:
What is the Roll Back Malaria Partnership?
History of Public Health Timeline, Interactive Map by The North Carolina Institute for Public Health
“In pursuit of better global health, should we follow a horizontal or vertical approach?” by student blogger at NYU-Wagner/Global Health Policy class
Free Online Global Health Course: Module 4: Eradication Efforts: Malaria versus Smallpox
Dr. Jim Webb’s Book: Humanity’s Burden: A global history of malaria

Jim Webb pic

Jim Webb pic

(1) Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins Magazine article featuring Clive & Rhoel.

Historical Epidemiology of Malaria Control

What can current malaria and other public health researchers learn from past eradication attempts? This is the subject of last week’s Friday Malaria Seminar at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute given by guest speaker Dr. James L.A. Webb Jr., PhD, MA, Professor, Colby College, Department of History. His talk, “The Historical Epidemiology of African Malaria 1945 – 1965,” gives us a sneak peak at his newest book coming out next year. Introduced by renowned malariologist, Dr. Clive Shiff. NB: Dr. Webb is Nina’s former undergraduate adviser, mentor, and friend and is also featured on this month’s Expert Panel #2 podcast along with Drs. Shiff & Rhoel Dinglasan.

Click here to listen or right click to download. Available on iTunes here.

Here’s Dr. Webb’s page at Colby College and here’s his website with links to his book Humanity’s Burden: A Global History of Malaria.

Jim Webb pic